ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — Maryland may see new forms of gaming such as “esports” or skill-based games after a panel of various gaming corporations presented information to a joint legislative committee this week.
This was the first time that the committee on gaming oversight has met since 2016, when they discussed fantasy sports. In January, Maryland became one of the first states to regulate daily fantasy sports.
There are 40 states with casino gambling across the country that bring in about $240 billion each year and support 1.7 million jobs, according to 2014 Oxford Economics and Gallup Polls.
Fiscal year 2017 gaming revenue numbers for the state’s casinos totaled $1.421 billion — $277 million more, or a 24.2 percent increase, over fiscal year 2016, Maryland Lottery and Gaming announced this month. These figures included revenues from Maryland’s sixth casino, MGM National Harbor, which opened in 2016.
Despite continual financial growth in the Maryland casino gaming industry, trends in the types of games played in casinos are beginning to shift, according to data from the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.
“As Maryland’s casino market matures, each of the six casinos is fine-tuning and adjusting its gaming floor to meet customer trends and demands,” said Carole Bober Gentry, managing director of communications for the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.
Table games are replacing slot machines in some Maryland casinos, where there has been a demand. In other casinos, slot machine use remains more consistent or has risen, Bober Gentry said.
Hollywood Casino in Perryville, Maryland, had 1,158 slots in 2013 and was down to 822 in August, while at Rocky Gap, there were 558 in 2013 and by this summer, 665.
National Harbor opened last year and had more than 3,000 slot machines on the floor at the end of August.
Blaine Graboyes, co-founder and CEO of GameCo Inc. explained that the addition of skill-based games and “esports” — video games played competitively both online and at live events — in casinos might boost revenues.
“Slot playing has been stagnant, and skill-based games address these challenges with a differentiated experience on the floor, and will bring in a younger audience,” Graboyes said.
Skill-based games, according to Graboyes, are games where skill level has some impact on the outcome. As opposed to games that are pure chance such as slot machines, skill-based games are more similar to “stick & ball” games such as football or baseball, he told the committee Tuesday.
These types of games will address several problems, Graboyes explained. Skill-based games are technology marketed to attract new casino gamers, and they are different from traditional slots.
Additionally, GameCo found that 60 percent of the average skill-based gamers are 25-54 years old. This is in line with the average gamer age of 35, according to the Entertainment Software Association.
“Interestingly enough, the first people to play skill-based games in America was a Vietnam veteran and his wife, which debunks the idea of who people think it would be,” Graboyes added.
Currently, New Jersey and Nevada provide specialized skill-gaming regulations, and Maryland already allows for skill-based games under current regulations, Graboyes told the committee.
Esports also have also been on most casinos’ radar, Graboyes said. In Las Vegas, esports have been active for two years.
These competitive video games draw in huge audiences and large cash prizes, according to Newzoo, a marketing intelligence company for esports.
At the International Dota 2 championship in 2017, a live esports competition, the prize pool was $24 million, according to Forbes, exceeding the winnings from the PGA Masters that same year, according to CBS Sports.
The Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling spoke to the committee about the resources that they offer for those who may need help with a gambling problem. Although only 5 percent of people will develop a serious gambling problem compared to the 95 percent who gamble socially, the center explained, it is not a problem to be taken lightly.
The center does not anticipate additional addiction issues with these new casino games put in place, but they will continue to offer free treatment for those who may need it.