Casino entertainment provider Caesars Entertainment has partnered up with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) to launch a technology hub that will seek to test new gaming, hospitality and fan experience concepts in spaces such as an esports arena.

‘Black Fire Innovation’ is the first public-private partnership of its kind in Southern Nevada. A 43,000 square-foot innovation space in the under-development UNLV Harry Reid Research & Technology Park will open later this year, including elements of mock hotel rooms, a casino floor and sportsbook, an esports arena and virtual reality facilities.

The multipurpose space will allow UNLV, Caesars and partners to develop and test new concepts using a mock integrated resort environment, showcasing innovations to current and potential industry partners.

“This collaboration with Caesars Entertainment will strengthen UNLV’s role as a research and innovation leader and further elevate Las Vegas as the global intellectual capital for gaming and hospitality,” said UNLV president Marta Meana.

“Collaborations like Black Fire Innovation also give our students unparalleled access to experts at the forefront of the industry. It’s an experience unique to Las Vegas that we’re proud to offer at UNLV.”

Research within the Black Fire Innovation space will focus on emerging technologies, which may include blockchain, artificial intelligence and virtual reality with interdisciplinary collaborations across areas such as architecture, psychology and fine arts.

Additionally, there will be opportunities for participating startups, researchers and partners to examine how these new technologies are changing how resorts approach gaming, sports wagering and social spaces to appeal to new audiences.

The partnership represents the latest move by Caesars in areas connected to sports infrastructure and fan experience. In November, Caesars was announced as the first founding partner of the Las Vegas Stadium, the future home of the Raiders NFL American football team.

Days before that agreement, Caesars entered into a multi-year partnership with Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE), which operates NBA basketball team the Philadelphia 76ers, NHL ice hockey franchise the New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center arena.

As part of the agreement, New Jersey sports fans will be introduced to Caesars Entertainment’s new sports book experience inside the exclusive Caesars Club at Prudential Center, which serves as the home of the Devils.

Commenting on the UNLV venture, Caesars Entertainment executive vice-president and chief information officer, Les Ottolenghi, said: “We intend to accelerate innovation in a way that is truly unprecedented within the gaming and hospitality space, bringing together top researchers and industry experts in a unique collaborative environment.

“Working side-by-side and with emerging student talent, technology partners and the community through this technology hub, Black Fire Innovation is designed to spur the creativity and entrepreneurship that will shape the future of our industry for many years to come.”

Although students and professionals from UNLV’s Division of Research and Economic Development and Caesars Entertainment will occupy the space, Black Fire Innovation is intended as an academic incubator that will also be available to private industry partners who want to advance their research and test concepts.