Buck Wargo reports that the dog days of pandemic seem to be a distant memory and the gaming sector was in an optimistic mood at G2E2023. Many people left Las Vegas feeling that the gaming industry was in good shape despite potential economic challenges.
The pandemic was as if it never occurred.
Last week the Global Gaming Expo, a positive and upbeat event about igaming’s future, returned to Las Vegas.
Attendees at the show were positive despite the industry facing headwinds from a possible Culinary Union Strike in Las Vegas and the US Economy.
G2E attracted over 25,000 attendees in its four-day run, which is just short of the record attendance for 2019 (27,000). The attendance continued to rebound after the cancellation of 2020 and 2021’s edition, which only attracted 13,000 attendees.
The increased number of visitors from abroad and the exhibitors who were present – over 125 different countries were in attendance – contributed to the increase. The number of exhibitors increased from 350 to 368, with 128 companies joining the event. There were also more than 100 education sessions on everything from tribal gaming and cashless gambling to sports betting, igaming, and cybersecurity.
Moving On from Covid
Oliver Lovat is CEO of Denstone Group. He says, “I believe this was the first global gaming conference in many years.” The last two years, people said that it was global. But it wasn’t. It’s more North American.
This year everyone is back to business. People from Bulgaria, Middle East, UK and Asia were all there. Everyone was back at full speed. Covid is no longer a concern. “They were there for business. They wanted to get things done.”
This year, G2E was a different experience for both attendees and exhibitors. For the first time, the American Gaming Association has created an igaming area to highlight the growing importance of igaming to the US Casino Industry.
It felt as if the pandemic had never occurred, says Victor Rocha. He is the conference chair of the Indian Gaming Association which organized tribal education sessions.
It was a lively and energetic show, and there were many people in attendance to conduct business.
Rocha said that the buzz was felt throughout Las Vegas. U2 launched the Sphere Concert Venue just a few steps from the Venetian Expo Center ten days prior to the show. The Las Vegas F1 Grand Prix, which will debut in November on the Strip, is preparing for its arrival. Paving and construction work has begun.
G2E brings a new energy, but Las Vegas faces looming problems
He adds, “It wasn’t the same old show.” Like everything else in Vegas, the show was energizing and it even seemed to be different when walking around with F1 and sporting teams competing during G2E.
You can feel the new energy that has been created in Las Vegas, and it’s carried over to G2E.
Brendan Bussmann of B Global Advisors called the event “a fantastic show” overall and thanked the industry for its ability to adapt and innovate across channels, from online casinos to land-based casino.
However, there were concerns that went beyond the surface.
Culinary union members pickedeted outside Strip casinos in response to a vote in September that authorized a strike by 38,000 employees who do not work in gaming at Wynn Resorts and Caesars Entertainment, as well as MGM Resorts International.
MGM’s CEO Bill Hornbuckle stated during G2E he expected a deal to avoid disruptions of both F1 as well as the Super Bowl scheduled for February.
Bussmann: “I would be shocked if you told me that in 2023 we will have reached the same level as we did in 2010 and 2021, when there was no G2E and we were in a doldrums.”
There’s an undercurrent that’s happening both in terms of economics and geopolitics, which is causing concern. But everyone’s very positive about the prospects for the future, even if it’s just a small downturn.
Hacks cause concern
Casinos are already facing cyberattacks by foreign hackers who shut down slot machines, ATMs and door keys at MGM and cost the company over $100m. Hornbuckle called it “corporate terror at its best” and noted that MGM has enjoyed strong bookings in recent months, due to the Super Bowl and F1 events.
In August, personal data of Caesars customers was stolen. Like MGM, Caesars is also facing class action lawsuits over the breach. Property owners are concerned that they could have their systems hacked and disrupted again.
Igaming takes centre stage at G2E 2023
There were always shiny, new items that caught the audience’s attention. Aristocrat showcased NFL themed slots, and also the latest technologies in artificial intelligence and cashless payment, as well as live dealer, cybersecurity and more. What really made this year’s igaming conference stand out was its special focus.
Korbi Carrrison, G2E’s executive vice president, explains that “igaming” is one of industry’s fastest growing sectors in both the US and overseas. We decided that it was crucial to showcase innovation by gathering igaming solutions providers at a single location. The event was a success.
The exhibitors built impressive booths that showcased a wide range of innovative products, and the attendees were ecstatic by filling the area throughout the entire week.
Bussmann said that igaming, as a new part of US gaming, added to the value of the show.
Rhode Island, Delaware, West Virginia, Delaware, Michigan and Pennsylvania are the only states that offer online gambling. Nevada only offers online poker.
Bussmann says that, while it may not have been as fast-paced in the US like sports betting has been there is still a great opportunity to grow the industry. Bussmann explains that “[they have] the ability to continuously bring in new clients and offer existing customers the added benefit of interacting with one of best forms of entertainment around the world.”
Steve Cvetkoski of Galaxy Gaming’s vice president of product believes that this year’s G2E show was the most busy. Since the outbreak, it has grown every year.
Cvetkoski states that “the enthusiasm is as high as it has ever been.” There have been many meetings, and there are many people who want to know about new products and games. The people are willing to try out new products and see how they could upgrade their floors.
You hear a lot of different stories about people worrying about the economy, but it’s hard to tell from here. “It’s been an amazing show for us.”
Cvetkoski believes that igaming will continue to grow in importance and Cvetkoski is looking forward to seeing it take more of the show’s space. A trade show like ICE London is more igaming heavy, but Cvetkoski says it’s a welcomed addition to G2E.
Cvetkoski says, “We are big fans of igaming.” Cvetkoski explains: “We also license our most popular games on igaming, and we saw it as the wave of future.
The growth of online gaming will be accelerated by Covid because it is accessible from any location.
Asia is well represented at G2E
The show saw the return of Asian manufacturers, who mainly manufacture peripheral products for gaming and manufacturing equipment.
They are looking for ways to enter the US market. According to C3 Gaming’s principal Lawrence Shen, some businesses already have Latin American clients and are using G2E Las Vegas to reconnect with them.
Shen says that the number of tech companies at the show is increasing. This includes everything from gaming data intelligence to anti-fraud services to food and beverages. Every year, more and more casinos are looking for these services.
Recent cyber-related events are driving G2E’s agenda
Julia Carcamo of New Orleans’ marketing agency J Carcamo & Associates saw casino operators specifically considering cybersecurity in light of recent cyber-attacks.
Carcamo states that marketers were looking to digital marketing tools for a new way of communicating digitally. This whole blend of sports betting, igaming, and traditional gaming is really exciting.
Oliver Lovat, however, was skeptical about the innovation level in the sector over the last year. The payment technology and the loyalty management were highlighted by him as highlights. He also thought that more innovation could be expected from the igaming area.
The igaming industry in Europe has always been stronger than the US, and it seems that the US is now catching up. It’s probably because the regulations are changing, and that customers have become more accepting of it.
What is the future of US gaming?
The educational sessions focused on the importance of igaming in America and its future.
Raf Mercado is the vice president of Goldman Sachs’ investment banking division. He told the audience that the digital offering will extend what the gaming industry does. They won’t have a negative impact on revenue and will help to attract new customers.
Mercado: “Sports betting and gambling online in New Jersey and the Midwest add to gaming expenditure and do not take away from a trip to Vegas, as many people think,” Mercado states.
It is generally believed that igaming will not expand in America until there are budget deficits. The federal bailouts resulting from the loss of revenues during pandemic have left many flush with cash.
Howard Wang, the managing director of Ares Management believes that politicians will still be wary about its expansion.
If you were the governor of a traditional brick-and mortar casino state, and weren’t sure that it would grow, or if you’re worried about the loss of jobs and tax revenue, then you might be cautious when passing laws.
I think this is the case for most of the states who operate commercial casinos. “Even though igaming represents the largest growth opportunity in the industry, it is likely to be slow.”
Bill Miller, AGA CEO, is bullish about the industry’s prospects
Bill Miller, AGA’s president and chief executive officer, painted a picture of optimism for the future of gaming despite challenges such as inflation and high interest rates.
Americans’ entertainment spending shows the popularity of gambling. Miller noted that gambling has recently reached an all-time-high, and 49% of Americans said they will play a real-money casino game by 2022.
Miller said that the record levels of gaming support and a strong focus on responsible gambling have helped to pave the path for expansion. Twelve new brick-and mortar casinos opened since G2E2022. This brings the number of US casinos to over 1,000, a first.
In 2023, it will also be five years since Supreme Court ruled against PASPA, a federal law which limited sports betting on single wagers to Nevada. Currently, 35 States offer legalized sports betting. Three more will be added soon. The igaming industry is growing by more than 20 percent compared to the previous year.
The gaming industry is growing around the globe. MGM will close its agreement to build Japan’s first gaming facility by the end the decade. Mohegan Sun, a tribe from Connecticut, will build an integrated resort for Korea. Brazil has finally moved towards legalisation. There’s also Wynn, who is building a casino in the United Arab Emirates.
Miller told G2E that “it is obvious we have a huge expansion, both in the United States and on markets which were previously closed for our industry.”
An American blueprint
Miller explained that the American gaming sector has created a blueprint for success. This approach creates a thriving, sustainable business that drives growth and delivers measurable impact on communities. It has gained broad support from consumers, lawmakers and regulators.
Miller stated that “this blueprint was made in America – it is being adopted all over the globe.”
He added that the blueprint was created on the Las Vegas Strip, where the customers can enjoy the most immersive and innovative entertainment available in the entire world. All the top performers, restaurants, hotels, spas, and gaming are under one roof.
It’s the idea that has turned 110 acres into a top-rated tourist destination in the entire world. The integrated resort is a success from Massachusetts to Maryland and Singapore to Macau. “And now it is driving the expansion of gaming to places such as Japan, Korea, and the UAE.”
Photo Credit: Global Gaming Expo
Buck Wargo, a journalist specializing in gaming and business journalism based out of Las Vegas. Former reporter at the Los Angeles Times, Buck Wargo has a degree in Middle Eastern Studies. He holds a Middle Eastern Studies degree from the University of Texas.