When people talk about playing skill-based games for money in the casino, one immediately thinks video games.
With the rising success of large-scale tournaments, specialized esports venues to watch competitions and a movement toward wagering on match outcomes and competitors betting on each other, another piece of skill-based competition is ready to take off.
Golfers make friendly bets with each other on courses all the time so it isn’t a stretch to see golf enter the skill-based realm.
At the MGM Grand’s new 12,000-square-foot Level Up space between the Hakkasan Nightclub and MGM’s race and sports book is Golfstream, billed as the world’s first indoor laser golf course and private lounge.
Built for and designed by millennials, Level Up is home to a mix of gambling and arcade games. You’ll find blackjack and roulette — set up so that players can socialize while they play and with lower minimum bets that are more palatable to young gamblers. And there are some nongambling games, including an enormous Pac-Man machine, and beer pong setups throughout the space.
There’s also the first-ever Frogger machine that can be played for cash prizes. Konami Gaming installed Frogger: Get Hoppin’ last month, the first on-floor blending of the video-game world and casino play.
Golfstream, meanwhile, tests different types of skills — putting, long drives and accuracy.
Developed by longtime friends Sameer Gupta and Darren Dummit, the Golfstream suite has a sophisticated virtual reality golf simulator that can put players on the tees and greens of the world’s best golf courses.
MGM has the attraction in the regulatory pipeline to conduct three different types of tournaments: a 30-second timed Putting Challenge, a Closest-to-the-Pin Challenge and a Longest Drive Challenge. The four players with the highest scores at the end of the first round would advance to the semifinals, and the top two would compete for the grand prize.
The putting-green floor of the Golfstream simulator can be computer adjusted to put slopes on the surface. But there’s no need for amateurs to worry — there’s also laser-guided tracking to help find the right direction for a stroke.
The longest drive and closest-to-the-pin competitions involve blasting a ball into a screen that calculates direction and distance.
On the day I checked out Golfstream, the Coeur d’Alene in Idaho, a gorgeous lakeside resort, was on the screen and our closest-to-the-pin competition featured the famous par 3 No. 14 island hole where golfers take aim at a floating green that can be moved to varying distances. Players shoot, then take an electric boat to the green to finish the hole.
The putting challenge involves sinking five putts of varying distances within 30 seconds. That computerized adjustment to the floor creates a sloped putting surface for which there are no gimmes.
The lounge environment enables up to 10 people to participate or watch and there’s food and drink service and a caddy who operates the simulator and helps participants.
Gupta and Dummit hope to ramp up tournaments on an ongoing basis, but in the meantime, the suite is available for group reservations and open for walk-up use.