G2E Las Vegas 2019: A perfect mix of business, innovation and learning

Global Gaming Expo 2019 displayed the glitz, the glamour and the information the industry needed.

The 19th edition of the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, U.S., had a very positive balance for organizers, exhibitors and attendees. The four-day event closed its doors at the Sands Expo and Convention Center after displaying the glitz, the glamour and the information the industry needed. The good feedback from close to 400 exhibitors and 27,000+ visitors made Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA), said he considered this year’s show a big success. Of course, this was a consequence of a combination of elements, starting with the very professional work of a team headed by Korbi Carrison (Reed Exhibitions) and Allie Barth (AGA), as well as people from PR firm Locust Street in the Media Room, and ending with the amazing demonstration of products, services and latest technologies for the sector.

The other strong axe of this success was the social and educational side of the event: conferences, keynotes, networking opportunities and more. Main keynote presentation had former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaking about how that state won the battle for sports betting legalization. Besides, on the Special Events Stage were the National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman, and relevant gaming executives such as Joe Asher, CEO at William Hill US, Greg Carlin, CEO of Rush Street Gaming, and Matt King, CEO of FanDuel.

Conferences consisted on education tracks, sessions, panels and roundtable discussions about different issues: Leadership; Marketing and Analytics; Non-Gaming Growth Opportunities; Optimizing Gaming Operations; Security, Surveillance, & Compliance; Cashless Transactions; Facial Recognition Technology; Artificial Intelligence; and Tribal Gaming. Other seminars and meetings included the iGaming Congress, the International Association of Gaming Advisors, the Sports Betting Symposium, the Innovation Lab, the Global Gaming Women, and the Latin America and Europe VIP Programs (executive talks, panels, cocktail receptions, and guided expo hall tours). All of this info was complemented by networking moments, such as awards ceremonies, cocktails and parties (some of them, pretty fun, like the ones from Scientific Games and from Zitro-FBM-Win Systems).

The extensive tour through Convention Center’s halls and the permanent dialogue with exhibitors and visitors let Gaming & Media know the keys of G2E: slots companies’ innovations, sport betting proposals, skill-based gaming developments and non-gaming possibilities. Major slots companies like IGT, Scientific Games, Konami Gaming, Aristocrat, Merkur Gaming and Novomatic-Ainsworth, among others, had immense booths with attractive products. They are all waiting for benefits after recent operators movements, such as Eldorado-Caesars merger (the combined companies will cover 60 properties in 18 states) and the MGM Resorts International selling of Circus Circus Las Vegas (for US$825 million to an affiliate of Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin), and of Bellagio casino and resort after a US$4.25 billion deal with real estate firm Blackstone. Unlike previous years, the absence of new licensed brand slots was noted.

In a country where 13 states have already authorized sports betting (and 5 more are close to legislative approval), that vertical was the ‘hot talk’ of the show. Big, traditional land-based manufacturers have also advanced to present solutions in this segment. For instance, IGT debuted its latest sports betting solutions, the PlaySports Bank and PlaySports Pod. Similarly, Scientific Games enhanced its OpenSports platform, creating a comprehensive suite of sports betting technologies and memorable sports betting experiences for players, including OpenBet, OpenPlatform, OpenTrade (powered by Don Best Sports), OpenEngage and OpenAccelerate. Also operators showed their new sportsbooks concepts. Walt Fales (SVP of Strategic Development, Enterprise Gaming of Caesars) and Matthew Kenagy, the company’s Senior Director of Sports Marketing, gave an overview of the successful ‘The Fan Caves’ program, a specific sportsbook space of 12 rentable living rooms completed with sofas and designed for up to eight friends, situated at the Linq on the Las Vegas Strip. For their part, Tribal Gaming leaders were cautious about sports betting regulations because of the potential threat to their casinos and the economic development they provide.

Other interesting options exhibited in the show floor were skill-based games, products that will surely drive the activity in the future. GameCo revealed their multiplayer games and their Video Game Gambling Machines (VGMs). Gamblit Gaming displayed attractive, millennial-friendly skill-based slots, while Synergy Blue brought arcade-style games and organized a conference with Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, who said skill-influenced gaming will take more than 25 percent of casino slot floors over the next decade.

Despite these innovative technologies, an increasing share of revenue U.S. casinos are getting is coming from non-gaming. A recent report conducted by David Schwartz, the former director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research, showed that, in 2018, the average Las Vegas visitor spent US$434.7, with US$285.41 going to non-gaming attractions and US$149.29 on gambling. In this sense, Non-Gaming was another essential subject discussed at G2E. Executives talked about the urgent need of new entertainment concepts, in order to offer customers a “total experience”. Patrons are demanding more social interaction and the answer of this could be the introduction of exciting music and theater shows and concerts, the inclusion of nightclubs, eSports venues, as well as virtual reality, social gaming and escape rooms proposals.

During the show, there was also a moment to share and analyze key data from the industry. A conference of Bill Miller, head of AGA, offered results of a survey that confirmed the growth of the gaming sector in the United States. According to AGA’s research, a record 49 percent of American adults have a favorable view of the casino gaming industry, up 4 percentage points from 2018. The interviewees said casinos help the communities where they are located, while clear majorities affirmed that casinos specifically help local economies (57 percent) and create jobs (71 percent). Moreover, two-in-three Americans (67 percent) think the gaming industry provides high-quality entertainment and 63 percent believe casino entertainment options are innovative. The share of American adults that visited a casino in the last year jumped to 44 percent in 2019, up 9 percentage points from 2018. This trend looks to continue, as almost half of all Americans (49 percent) say they will visit a casino to gamble over the next 12 months, up from 41 percent in 2018.

Gaming revenue for the U.S. casino industry (commercial and tribal casinos) reached an all-time high of US$75.4 billion last year, while a Morgan Stanley report predicts Americans will place more than US$216 billion in legal sports wagers by 2025. This year alone, 7 million Americans plan to visit a sportsbook to bet on an NFL game, a 20 percent increase over last year. Since the federal ban on sports betting ended, Americans have legally wagered more than US$11 billion on sports. With these numbers, both for land-based and remote gaming, Miller could not be more optimistic. “The favorability of our industry has never been higher. As gaming expands across the U.S. and more Americans engage with our industry’s offerings, they see firsthand gaming’s positive impact on local economies and its value as a community partner. This is directly related to the evolution of G2E”, he stated.

About current edition, the executive remarked: “G2E exceeded my expectations in terms of the talent of the people that was there. I talked with suppliers, manufacturers, operators, and the vibe was really good. They did business and showcased their best solutions, and all that was very well-received. However, I consider every show can be enhanced, so I’ll sit down with my team to plan ways to make G2E even better in 2020.”