Jacksonville mass shooting sparks calls for tighter eSports security

The deadly shooting during a Madden 19 NFL tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, Sunday has prompted calls for tighter security at professional video gaming events.

The gunman killed two people and then fatally shot himself in a rampage that wounded several others. Authorities believe 24-year-old David Katz of Baltimore carried out the attack using at least one handgun at the Jacksonville Landing, a collection of restaurants and shops along the St. Johns River. Katz is believed to have fired shots at the Chicago Pizza restaurant and bar, according to Sheriff Mike Williams.

Professional video gaming, or eSports, is a fast-growing industry where players compete against each other for lucrative prizes, often in front of large audiences. The events also have a huge following online via streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube.

Sunday’s tournament was held at the GLHF Game Bar, which is next to Chicago Pizza and shares a door with the restaurant, according to its website. Gamers were taking part in a qualifier for the Madden NFL 19 Classic in Las Vegas in October. At the Madden Classic Live Finals, competitors play for a share of the tournament’s $165,000 prize pool, with the winner taking home $25,000, according to game developer EA Sports. Both the Madden Classic winner and runner up earn a place at this season’s Madden Bowl event in April 2019.

Professional gaming team compLexity had a player at the Jacksonville event. Jason Lake, the founder and CEO of compLexity said on Twitter that 19-year-old Drini Gjoka, was shot in the thumb.

Lake told CNN that the deadly Jacksonville shooting could have a major impact on security at future eSports events.

“Sad day and a WAKE UP CALL for organizers small and large,” he tweeted.

Gjoka tweeted: "The tourney just got shot up. Im leavinng and never coming back." Then: "I am literally so lucky. The bullet hit my thumb. Worst day of my life."

“MORE SECURITY AT ESPORTS EVENTS PLEASE,” tweeted @clerkie, described in his Twitter profile as the general manager of professional gaming team eUnited. “Players, managers and owners all need separate entrances and exits from general admission and main entrances need heavy security.”

The global eSports market is expected to be worth $905.6 million in 2018, according to eSports specialist Newzoo, a 38 percent increase on 2017.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers