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UNLV, Caesars Entertainment team up on Vegas teaching center

May 5, 2019

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Las Vegas casino company and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, say they’re partnering to create a teaching and practice space featuring a mock casino, hotel rooms, sports betting area and esports arena.

Caesars Entertainment Corp. and the university have dubbed the center “Black Fire Innovation,” and officials say it will provide a 43,000-square-foot (3,995-square meter) space to host, develop and market hospitality products and ideas.

“Black Fire Innovation has space you can really test out that idea and build the next prototype, or engage elbow-to-elbow with a corporation to move that (idea) forward to some type of life-changing product or services,” Zach Miles, UNLV associate vice president for economic development, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

To be built at UNLV’s Harry Reid Research and Technology Park southwest of the Las Vegas Strip, the two-story facility will include a student lab, work space and a replica resort and casino with slot machines and table games.

“This collaboration with Caesars Entertainment will strengthen UNLV’s role as a research leader and further elevate Las Vegas as the global intellectual capital for gaming and hospitality,” UNLV president Marta Meana told the Las Vegas Sun in a statement. “Collaborations like Black Fire also give our students unparalleled access to experts at the forefront of the industry.”

Les Ottolenghi, Caesars Entertainment executive vice president, called the effort a natural partnership.

“Our industry is highly competitive and rapidly evolving, so we have to continuously innovate to ensure our future as we establish new business models and revenue streams,” Ottolenghi told the Review-Journal in an email. “This is really an opportunity for us to redefine the industry.”

Officials said the space will be available to students of all majors, as well as researchers and partners. They’ll be able to analyze food and music in casinos, and focus on emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and virtual reality.

“You’re using academic skills to work on real-world problems in the industry.” Miles said. “If you’re not thinking of a new product or service or efficiency that will provide our lives with enjoyment, you may not exist.”

Financial details of the partnership between Caesars and UNLV were not disclosed.

The technology park is a 122-acre mixed-use center currently home to a charter school and a pharmaceutical company.

A 2018 economic analysis by the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research estimated the park could generate 25,000 jobs and as much as $2.6 billion in direct and indirect economic impact in Las Vegas over 20 years.

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