How Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City Bridges Slots and Video Games – Press Enterprise

The typical casino patron may be looking for the best place to play poker, bingo or try their luck on the slot machines. Yet recent Wednesday nights at Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City have welcomed a different kind of player: the video game enthusiast.

Cathedral City Casino began hosting weekly “eSports After Dark” tournaments in partnership with Coachella Valley-based esports company Conflux Gaming in late May at the casino’s sports bar.

Guests played several popular titles such as Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart and Street Fighter V on the bar’s huge screens for chances to win prizes and qualify for the finals based on their performance during the tournament eight weeks.

  • Guests pack 360 Sports at Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City for one of the weekly “eSports After Dark” tournaments. The casino started hosting esports tournaments in late May. (Courtesy of Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral)

  • One of the sign-up boards for the weekly

    One of the registration boards for the weekly “eSports After Dark” tournaments at 360 Sports at Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City. The casino started hosting esports tournaments in late May. (Courtesy of Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral)

  • Guests participate in 360 Sports at the Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral...

    Guests compete against 360 Sports at Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City for one of the weekly ‘eSports After Dark’ tournaments. The casino started hosting esports tournaments in late May. (Courtesy of Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral)

  • Two players compete in one of the weekly events

    Two players compete in one of the weekly “eSports After Dark” events at Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City. (Courtesy of Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral)

  • A player focuses during one of the weekly events

    A player focuses on one of the weekly “eSports After Dark” events at Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City. (Courtesy of Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral)

Jay Bednar, manager of nightly entertainment at Agua Caliente properties, said esports tournaments began in 2018 at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. Bednar said they were limited to six rounds and would end the same night.

After measuring which titles were the most popular, Bednar helped expand tournaments in 2019 to a 32-person bracket-style tournament where one player plays another and whoever wins goes into battle against someone else. other. In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic shut down many in-person activities, but that didn’t stop players from moving online.

Last year, Bednar said the casino revived the in-person event with DJ performances and averaged about 250 people per night. Luxor in Las Vegas has also incorporated video game tournaments and found success, which Bednar says opens the doors to a different type of guest.

“We used it initially to speak to a whole new demographic and feed the funnel, so to speak, for the future of Agua Caliente’s customer base,” Bednar said.

While esports events tend to attract a younger crowd, they also pique the curiosity of other casino patrons. Bednar said staff have heard comments from older guests about how far video games have come and personal stories of how their loved ones play video games for recreation or professionally.

“I saw the whole family come in,” Bednar said. “Mom and dad come over for dinner and play in the casino while their son plays video games at the sports bar.”

As the pandemic continues to shift between surges and lulls, each player who shows up for competition takes different levels of caution. Bednar said Agua Caliente provides sanitizing stations and most players bring custom remotes from home, while some prefer masks and some don’t. He also said guests were happy to compete and socialize in person after the limitations imposed by the pandemic measures.

“I think they love being back together,” Bednar said. “We’ve always considered it the next level of social gaming, and it seems the crowd and the community are enjoying it.”

As for the future of esports, the casino plans to bring back another eight-week tournament in August and will be open to customers 18 and older. Bednar said most tournament spots usually fill up, so signing up for the the casino website is the safest bet to secure a share of the action. Guests can also register in person if space is available on a specific evening.

“Our esports business will continue to evolve,” Bednar said. “I know Agua Caliente as a whole views it as a way to speak to future clientele and make them feel comfortable coming to our properties.”


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Carolyn M. Daniel