Game on: N.J., Stockton sign MOU to create Esports Innovation Center in Atlantic City

Stockton University took another step toward becoming the esports center of New Jersey on Tuesday, when officials from the university and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority signed a memorandum of understanding enabling the NJEDA to provide $200,000 in funding plus staff resources to Stockton for its esports initiative.

The plan, which was announced in May, will help Stockton establish an Esports Innovation Center at the university’s Atlantic City campus. The center is expected to help to advance the goal of establishing Atlantic City as a hub for the rapidly growing esports industry.

The esports industry has swiftly grown in popularity in the U.S., with total revenue in North America projected to reach $250 million this year and a viewing audience of 57 million people. By 2025, the industry is expected to reach $9 billion globally.

State officials feel the esports industry can help diversify New Jersey’s tourism and entertainment sector and be a source of new high-quality, high-wage jobs, such as software engineers, product developers and content provision/event production roles. The industry is large and rapidly growing, with total esports employment in the U.S. nearly doubling from the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2020.

Among other activities, the center will focus on catalyzing collaborative technology innovation, supporting workforce development within the esports industry, positioning New Jersey and Atlantic City as an esports leader through events and thought leadership, identifying and promoting best practices for regulating wagering on esports and ensuring integrity in competitions, and promoting diversity and inclusion, as well as healthy gaming practices, as essential components of esports culture.

The Esports Innovation Center will also work with the Division of Gaming Enforcement and independent bodies that govern integrity in competitions to position New Jersey as a national leader in regulation and integrity practices for esports and will promote diversity and inclusion, as well as healthy gaming practices, in the esports industry.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said the state is eager to get involved.

“Esports presents a rare chance to cultivate an entirely new industry that will create good-paying, skilled jobs, along with an opportunity to build industry leadership,” she said. “With a renowned higher education partner like Stockton University and our unparalleled pool of technology talent, I am confident that New Jersey is well-equipped to support the rapidly-growing esports industry and the economic potential it can offer our residents and small businesses.”