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Apr 26, 2019

Caesars Entertainment, UNLV form collaboration to transform technology in Las Vegas

An exterior rendering of Black Fire Innovation.
A rendering of the mock race and sports book lab at Black Fire Innovation.
A rendering of the casino floor lab.
A rendering of the casino floor lab at Black Fire Innovation.

When you think of the technology capital of the world, Las Vegas might not be the first city that comes to mind, until now.

With a newly formed partnership, Caesars Entertainment will join the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), a top tier research university in order to drive hospitality, gaming, and entertainment innovation. It will be a space to discover what the next hotel room or slot machine will look like, and a place to test new esports ideas or retail concepts. Students will be hands-on with new technologies and will be able to see what it really takes to bring new ideas to market.

Black Fire Innovation will be home to the ideas of the future by giving companies, entrepreneurs, and students space, tools, resources, and support to make innovative ideas a reality.

Black Fire Innovation, expected to open in Q3 at the UNLV Harry Reid Research and Technology Park, will include replicated elements of a casino resort and multipurpose workspace. Within the 43,000-square-foot space, ideas will come to life in elements of mock hotel rooms, casino floor, presentation, exhibit areas, a sports book, esports arena, and virtual reality facilities.

“It invites the rest of Nevada as well as the nation and the world to come here and work with us on innovation,” said Zachary Miles, Associate Vice President for Economic Development at UNLV. The partnership will strengthen UNLV’s role as a research and innovation leader.

“We see it being a center for innovation not only for Nevada, not only for UNLV but for the broader gaming and hospitality industry,” said Andrew Baca, Director of Business Innovation and Technology Strategy at Caesars Entertainment.

Black Fire Innovation is the first public-private partnership of its kind in Southern Nevada. It will allow companies to use the space to hold demonstrations, build and test new products to bring ideas to life in an accelerated fashion.

“It’s a place where companies can come and experiment with new technology, demonstrate it here to any company on the Strip and be able to pilot it,” said John Celona, Vice President of Innovation at Caesars Entertainment.Research at the facility will focus on emerging technologies, and it will allow participating startups, researchers, and partners to examine how new technologies appeal to hospitality guests.

Not only will Black Fire Innovation bring new ideas to reality, but it will also help the students at UNLV acquire hands-on industry experience.

“We have a lot of really bright, talented students that are coming up with these great ideas every day, but a lot of times these students create these ideas, but they have no way to get it outside of our walls,” said Liz Lewis, Economic Development Manager at UNLV. “They create an idea and unless they have other resources outside of UNLV it is hard for them to figure out where to go and really ‘how do I build a prototype, how do I get funding’ and this is going to create a hub, not only for the students but for the community and industry as well.”

Black Fire is an academic incubator allowing not only the students of and professionals of UNLV but private industry partners as well.

“We’ve only scratched the surface of what we can do,” said Celona. “We will deal with this accelerator in a way that Las Vegas has never seen.”