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New Initiatives Set New Jersey on Path to Lead US Esports Industry

TRENTON, N.J. (September 1, 2020) – While COVID-19 has been devastating for almost all businesses, esports – competitive video gaming –has expanded significantly as people across the world spend more time at home and more social interactions move into virtual spaces. Now, thanks to a number of initiatives supported by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), including legalized betting on esports competitions and a first of its kind college esports league, New Jersey is set to take the lead as a United States epicenter of this rapidly growing industry.
 
Esports has been a growing industry for years, and it has continued to expand during the COVID-19 pandemic, when social distancing has forced many people to stay home and find ways to socialize virtually. Worldwide, there are twelve professional esports leagues, which include 120 franchised teams and roughly 1,000 professional players. Nearly 500 million people tune into esports events, and revenues from the industry are expected to surpass $1 billion in 2020. The industry’s growth has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. This rapid expansion has created new opportunities for states that embrace esports, and the NJEDA is working with partners throughout the industry to make sure New Jersey is a destination for esports companies.
 
“As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, finding new ways to bring people together virtually and supporting industries that can thrive without in-person interaction is crucial,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “Esports are uniquely positioned to address both of these priorities, and the NJEDA is excited to help to bring the benefits of this new industry to communities throughout New Jersey.”
 
One strategy the State is using to drive interest in esports is allowing fans to place bets on esports matches the same way they bet on traditional sports such as basketball and football. The Vie.gg Legend Series, a two-week long global esports tournament beginning on August 31, 2020, will be the first opportunity for esports enthusiasts and other gamblers to bet on an esports event in New Jersey with the VIE.gg CS:GO Legend Series.
 
The VIE.gg CS:GO Legend Series is a two-week-long Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) tournament  developed through a partnership between Allied Esports, a global esports entertainment company, and Esports Entertainment Group, a licensed online gambling company focused on esports betting, with data and video rights licensed to leading esports data provider GRID. The inaugural event, which runs from August 31 through September 13, 2020, features 16 professional esports teams from around the world competing in the team-based, first-person action game.
 
Similar to traditional sports betting, esports fans will be able to place both “single outcome” bets on which team will win at each stage of the competition and more granular “in-play” wagers on live action components of each match. Live odds and additional betting opportunities will be integrated into the broadcast of all matches during the tournament, which can be watched on twitch.tv/AlliedEsports starting at 11 a.m. EDT each day.
 
To ensure fairness, the VIE.gg CS:GO Legend Series is conducted in line with industry-leading standards and practices for integrity, directed by Allied Esports’ membership in the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC), and  event guidelines include specific rules for teams and players regarding betting, inside information, match fixing, and cheating.
 
“Esports is quickly emerging as an economic and cultural force on par with many other traditional sports, and it is important that New Jersey accommodate the many ways fans engage with their favorite teams and events,” said New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) Director David L. Rebuck. “Allowing betting on esports not only provides more variety for sports wagering enthusiasts, but also makes New Jersey more attractive to the innovative companies that drive this growing industry.”
 
While the VIE.gg CS:GO Legend Series and other esports events that allow betting will grow New Jersey’s professional esports industry, the NJEDA is also supporting efforts to create opportunities for younger esports enthusiasts. In particular, the Authority is helping to facilitate the creation of Conference One (CF1), a first-of-its-kind college esports league that will be headquartered in New Jersey.
 
Despite the industry’s recent growth, there has never been a college-specific league for esports enthusiasts. Players are either amateurs or professionals; there is no path for esports student athletes comparable to traditional college sports. CF1 aims to change that by creating a collegiate varsity esports league that will bring together teams of students from more than 128 schools across the United States for live open league and tournament play. The league will also produce and disseminate other student-driven entertainment content and programming.
 
In the 2020-21 academic year, CF1 will run collegiate esports competition for colleges and universities in Riot Games’ newly released game title, Valorant. Schools will be organized into four regions: East, North, South, and West where they will compete in a round robin format culminating in regional tournaments. The league anticipates adding more titles in the future.

New Jersey-based Rutgers University and Stockton University have agreed to compete with Conference One this upcoming fall semester. A complete list of registered schools and Conference One competition details will be available online September 1, 2020 at CF1.gg. Schools interested in joining the league can sign up before September 21, 2020.

“Finding the ideal location to establish Conference One was challenging. We needed a place with a robust technology infrastructure that could handle the demands of major livestreamed events, a highly skilled and adaptable workforce, and an established sports wagering industry. Not many locations offer all of that, but New Jersey has it all,” said Anthony Gaud, CEO of G3 Esports, which established and manages Conference One. “We look forward to collaborating with the NJEDA and other partners throughout the state to grow Conference One while supporting New Jersey’s emerging status as the hub of the American esports industry.”
 
The launch of esports betting and Conference One this fall is just the beginning of the industry’s growth in New Jersey. Several New Jersey colleges have established esports teams and a few have begun developing coursework and internship programs to prepare students for careers in the field. The NJEDA supports these efforts and is actively seeking to connect with innovative esports businesses to accelerate the industry’s continued growth in New Jersey. Individuals and companies with innovative ideas related to esports are encouraged to reach out to William Penders, Senior Advisor – Office of Economic Transformation at wpenders@njeda.com.

To read Governor Murphy's full economic plan, please visit: https://nj.gov/economicplan
 
About the New Jersey Economic Development Authority
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) serves as the State’s principal agency for driving economic growth. The NJEDA is committed to making New Jersey a national model for inclusive and sustainable economic development by focusing on key strategies to help build strong and dynamic communities, create good jobs for New Jersey residents, and provide pathways to a stronger and fairer economy. Through partnerships with a diverse range of stakeholders, the NJEDA creates and implements initiatives to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life in the State and strengthen New Jersey’s long-term economic competitiveness.
 
To learn more about NJEDA resources for businesses call NJEDA Customer Care at 609-858-6767 or visit https://www.njeda.com and follow @NewJerseyEDA on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.
 
About Gaud-Hammer Gaming Group (G3):
 
Connecting fans, brands, events, and venues to the world of esports Gaud-Hammer Gaming Group is a full-service esports, gaming and entertainment agency. We are committed to creating a safe, healthy, and supportive world, one that builds gamers’ skill sets, provides them with the tools to improve their lives and community, and drives the gaming culture forward. To learn more about Gaud-Hammer Gaming Group, visit http://www.g3esports.gg.
 
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