Caesars and UNLV unveil Black Fire Innovation tech hub to develop products and concepts for ‘casinos of the future’

Caesars and UNLV unveil Black Fire Innovation tech hub to develop products and concepts for ‘casinos of the future’

  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
January 24, 2020 11:00 AM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Other

Caesars Entertainment and the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Thursday celebrated the opening of their new technology hub, where new gaming and hospitality concepts intended to usher in the casinos of the future will be created and tested.

Black Fire Innovation is a mock integrated resort and co-working space that encompasses more than 43,000 square feet on two floors of a new four-story building in UNLV’s Harry Reid Research and Technology Park. The park is named after the former Nevada Democratic senator who secured the land from the federal government.

Reid, who is battling pancreatic cancer, attended Thursday’s festivities.

This is the first building constructed by the Gardner Company as part of the planned research, business and technology campus in southwest Las Vegas.

The space includes elements of replica hotel rooms, a mock casino floor and sportsbook, an esports arena and virtual reality facilities. The building will serve as a hub for innovation teams and researchers who will use the hospitality and gaming labs to test and showcase emerging concepts in gaming technology.

Photo courtesy UNLV

This includes not only entertainment, gaming, hospitality, retail and dining, but also backend support like business operations, loyalty marketing, robotics, sustainability, big data, and cybersecurity.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said the research park will boost the Las Vegas economy and serve as a place for collaboration between industry and academia, something that likely wouldn’t be possible on many college campuses. The goal is to attract new high-tech businesses to the region and spark a flow of ideas to spur creativity and entrepreneurship.

“Developing the state’s workforce requires innovation to push boundaries and expand our position as world leaders in hospitality and gaming, and (to) drive new economic frontiers,” Sisolak said. “Black Fire Innovation does just that. UNLV, Caesars and partners are working together to develop how visitors will experience the integrated resorts of the future, not just the resorts of now.”

Sisolak said Black Fire, as a business accelerator, has the tools necessary “to bridge the gap between ideas and life-changing products in services, hospitality and gaming.” The lab will be home to several UNLV and Caesars teams combining efforts in corporate innovation, game testing, economic and technological development, and engineering. UNLV students, researchers and staff will work alongside startups and tech partners looking toward commercialization in an evolving industry.

“World-class research and industry experts will collaborate with entrepreneurs and small businesses to bring ideas to market and encourage small businesses to relocate to Nevada,” Sisolak said. “That will give the future workforce — the UNLV students — unparalleled opportunities to learn, grow and network with future employers.”

Caesars Entertainment CEO Tony Rodio said the park’s opening is an exciting day for his company. Caesars has long been at the forefront of hospitality and gaming innovation, he said, and he expects the facility to be an economic driver and job creator for hospitality, gaming and the broader entertainment industry for years to come.

Photo courtesy UNLV

“Our collaboration with UNLV, the nation’s top gaming research institution, is certainly a recipe for success,” Rodio said. “What you see here is quite unprecedented. Bringing together top researchers and industry experts in a unique and dynamic environment enables emerging student talent to work together with technology partners and the community to help shape the future of gaming and hospitality. It’s possible that revolutionary ideas will be conceived and perfected at Black Fire.”

Zach Miles, associate vice president for economic development at UNLV, called the fourth floor “a living laboratory space” and said that the third floor will function as a co-working space, with a full service kitchen, conference rooms, wi-fi, and private workspaces.

It will serve startups – including those involving students – and offer space for consultants, remote workers and entrepreneurs. Intel, Panasonic, and the eSports company Active Entertainment have agreed to help set up the infrastructure of the building.

“If you are a start-up, you get to rub shoulders with Intel,” Miles said. “There’s a lot of interest. I’m much more concerned about running out of space this year than filling it.”

Current Black Fire Innovation sponsors include, among others, Nutanix, LG, Aruba/ HPE, Interblock, Peerless-AV, Respawn, and Allied Communications.

“I envision this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Miles said. “(This) is not only hospitality labs… more buildings will go up that support sports research and other innovations. This is the kickoff of what’s to come.”