As we gather this year at Global Gaming Expo (G2E), I can’t help but be amazed by the progress we’ve made as an industry in so many ways in such a short period of time.
Four years ago, our association embarked on two important initiatives. One was G2E, the show developed “by the industry and for the industry.” The other was an effort to address diversity in the workplace and in purchasing and contracting. Today, as we look back on both of these initiatives, we count them among our industry’s most significant achievements.
At G2E, we have grown from a mere concept in 2000 to an event that was included in the annual list of 50 fastest-growing trade shows published recently in TradeshowWeek. We expect to build on last year’s attendance of more than 20,000 from 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as well as 94 countries around the world. In excess of 650 vendors will display their wares in more than 260,000 square feet of exhibit space. You also will notice that the show floor has expanded even further this year, focusing on growth areas such as F&B, casino design and décor, bingo, security and surveillance, and interactive gaming.
The conference program has evolved in a similar fashion. Again this year, we will offer attendees more than 100 sessions with the leading experts in their fields discussing topical issues. New features will include “Signature Series” sessions on international issues, Native American issues, and casino design and décor, along with F&B and casino design and décor tracks. Not to mention the intensive, daylong G2E Training & Development Institute that precedes the show and the Gaming Investment Forum.
We also have given you more options to enhance your networking experience. We are debuting the Same Suit Networking Lunches, which offer specific job functions (this year it’s slot directors, marketing directors and Native American leaders) the opportunity to share experiences, best practices, successes and challenges. As in previous years, we will have an attendee lounge, cyber café and, of course, our welcome reception, this time at the Rio.
More and better exhibitors, conference sessions and networking opportunities translate to a show that brings value to everyone involved in this industry — whether that means making new contacts or learning new strategies — and ultimately improves the bottom line.
At the same time we began plans for G2E, the industry embarked on another important mission: to bring together experts from our member companies involved in human resources, purchasing and related areas to find ways to ensure that both our work force and our suppliers reflected the diversity in our communities. The AGA Diversity Task Force has made significant strides since its inception in 2000. Most recently, we unveiled our Online Diversity Resource Guide, which serves as an information resource for gaming companies, disadvantaged and minority and women-owned suppliers and vendors, and individuals on topics such as industry best practices, licensing and certification, state regulations and employment.
Here at G2E, we are hosting our third annual Opportunity Expo, giving certified disadvantaged and minority and women-owned businesses the opportunity for one-on-one meetings with purchasing agents from casino companies. In tandem with this effort, we are conducting a workshop to provide guidance on the certification process.
These activities are on top of two major projects undertaken by the task force. The Human Resources Subcommittee, while working on the more difficult and time-consuming task of establishing standard industrywide job classifications, compiled the latest employment statistics by job category, race and gender in the 2003 Gaming Industry Diversity Snapshot, updating a 2001 study that established a benchmark for our industry. Meanwhile, the Purchasing and Contracting Subcommittee is compiling a list of commodities purchased by casinos and also working to standardize practices in this area.
While we look back on the accomplishments we’ve made on G2E and diversity, we’ve also learned that as an industry we need to keep evolving in order to be successful. In keeping with that mandate, the AGA is embarking on a new initiative: the launch of an individual membership program along with the reinvigoration of our political action committee (PAC).
Up to this point, we have been successful in fighting for the issues that matter to our members. Now, recent changes to campaign finance laws have introduced new challenges, demanding that individuals with a stake in the U.S. commercial casino industry get more involved in the political process. As a result of these changes, political action committees (PACs) have become much more critical tools to give industries a voice on the issues affecting their business. AGA member company executives have recognized this need, challenging us to broaden participation in our PAC.
We have responded by launching a major initiative to increase individual membership in the AGA as well as an aggressive fund-raising campaign. The campaign will involve outreach to encourage PAC contributions from member companies and their employees as well as recruitment of AGA vendors and other employees involved in the gaming industry who have a right to have a voice in Congress. If you’d like to learn more, I encourage you to stop by our special PAC booth set up next to the AGA booth near the registration area, where we will be showcasing our new program.
As gaming professionals from around the world gather in Las Vegas for G2E 2004, I know I speak for our entire industry in advocating for “four more years” (and then some) of building relationships and growing our business using traditional as well as innovative ways.