Esports is taking center stage at a premier Pacific Northwest casino

The rain is coming down hard against the windshield of my Subaru as I round another bend.  Between the heavy rain, the darkness, and the people heading towards Seattle who won’t turn off their brights I can just barely see ahead of me.  Undeterred I coax my silver vehicle up the incline, checking the directions on my phone as I go. 

It’s Tuesday evening and I’ve left the lights of Seattle behind.  Now I’m headed up Interstate 90 towards Snoqualmie Casino.  A search through facebook that morning finds a Street Fighter V/ Marvel vs Capcom Infinite Tournament going on nearby, and at a large casino no less.  I check my phone again to make sure the exit is correct.  With the weather so bad it’s no surprise that I pass a few accidents and I’m not looking to become another.  Finally I arrive, get parked, and wander throughout the casino until I find the event. 

The hall isn’t full, but it buzzes with life.  Two players sit next to each other on a large stage while their fight is broadcast on two massive hanging screens next to them.  Below the stage the floor is a mix of long tables in the center of the space and smaller round tables around them.   The long tables serve the rest of the brackets and friendly games where other competitors matches are being played out.  Meanwhile the round tables facilitate spectators who are watching the matches, talking, and relaxing.  The large arcade style controllers called sticks wait to be put into action alongside more standard PS4 controllers.  This place has all the makings of a major tournament.

The People Making it Happen

I got to sit down with Nick Spahn, Sales Executive for the Snoqualmie Casino, who gave me the rundown on the casino’s plans for esports.  Nick was full of energy as he discussed with me how this was the casino’s first year getting into esports.  The casino has been running Madden tournaments on Thursdays since the start of the professional football season and is now getting into the fighting game scene as well.  Other titles like Rocket League and League of Legends are possible in the future.  It’s clear to me there’s real passion behind Nick’s words.  Spahn also stressed to me how they want to take it slow and get it right.  They’re putting the state of the art resources of the casino behind it such as the stage and lights.  Most importantly, they have been listening to the players.  Nick explained they asked players what kinds of monitors were best for tournaments, then went out and got them. 

In keeping with their idea of getting esports right Snoqualmie Casino is working with LEET, of the esports company Unikrn based in Las Vegas.  Ford “Shockit” of LEET had flown in from Vegas to help with the inaugural fighting tournament at the casino.  He gave me the rundown on the this event.  Ford has high hopes for the event.  He discussed how they plan to have biweekly fight nights with Street Fighter and a rotation of other fighting games.  Games like Super Smash Bros. and Dragonball could be played as the event expands.  Double elimination tournaments will be the norm with a scaling pot based on the number of participants and raffle prizes.  Perhaps most exciting is that Ford could see the casino become a qualifying venue for the Capcom Pro Tour and a part of the Road to EVO series. 

The Future 

In the future Snoqualmie Casino hopes to run the fighting game tournaments once every two weeks.  They expect it to grow and Spahn says that as it gets bigger so will the amount of resources they can put behind it and the prizes.  Madden 18 tournaments are still going on every Thursday, next one November 30th at 5:30, through February 3rd so those are worth the drive out as well.  For more information check out Unikrn.com and LEET on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pg/leetgg/events/?ref=page_internal 

Upcoming events are only going to get better and being only 25 minutes from Seattle, the venue is very accessible.  If you can’t make it you’ll be able to watch it live on twitch via: twitch.tv/watcheet .  The place oozes with potential and from the people that I talked to, it’s going to live up to it. 

About The Author

James 'CorporalV' Verzuh was a real corporal once. Now he's an archaeologist and writes about esports.