For almost a half century, Las Vegas reigned supreme as the one true gaming mecca in the United States and, some would argue, the world. The casinos’ bright lights, free rooms, cheap food and headliners such as the Rat Pack, Johnny Carson and Elvis Presley were employed to attract gamblers to their tables. Slot machines were part of the casino mix, but the real gaming happened on the green felt.
Then came the 1970s. The opening of Caesars Palace – the first themed casino resort in Las Vegas – and the expansion of gaming into Atlantic City offered early hints of the future of gaming. But it wasn’t until the late 1980s – spurred by Native American tribes asserting their rights and states looking for jobs, economic growth and tax revenues – that gaming truly blossomed. Now, one hundred years after the birth of Las Vegas, the gaming industry has evolved into a dynamic and global business, and gambling is just one of the multitude of entertainment offerings available at today’s cutting-edge casinos.
As the gaming industry has expanded both geographically and in relation to its diversity of offerings, so too has Global Gaming Expo (G2E), celebrating its fifth anniversary this year. Harnessing the essence of our industry’s evolution has been the goal of G2E since the debut of our first show back in 2001, and we have endeavored to keep our attendees abreast of the latest trends in the industry by providing unparalleled access to new games, new technologies, new markets and new ideas. G2E 2005 certainly follows that model, offering events, exhibits and educational programming that represent the changing face of the industry.
One of the most visible changes within the industry centers on the wide range of live performance options available in today’s modern casinos. On the first day of G2E, the popular State of the Industry panel, moderated by Larry King, returns with a twist to focus on the evolution of Las Vegas entertainment. King will engage panelists Al Bernstein, Franco Dragone, Clint Holmes, Wayne Newton and Rita Rudner in a discussion of how entertainment in Las Vegas has changed over the years, from nightclub acts to sports to Cirque du Soleil. These entertainers will share their experiences as well as their predictions for what the future of entertainment in Las Vegas and other jurisdictions will bring.
The explosive growth of non-gaming amenities offered at casinos, ranging from golf courses, to spas, nightclubs, retail developments and more, is another major development that has taken the industry by storm, with the trend quickly spreading well beyond Las Vegas. Amenities will take center stage in a dedicated new exhibit pavilion and as the focus of this year’s G2E Future Watch research series, which will culminate in a Signature Series panel discussion on the research results and a look ahead to the amenities of the future. Another new Signature Series will focus on emerging food and beverage issues, and F&B at G2E will showcase even more aspects of this increasingly important industry sector.
Beyond the evolution of casino amenities and entertainment, the very core nature of our business is evolving, with mergers and acquisitions and international expansion yielding a new landscape in which we all operate. G2E’s second keynote address will focus on these and other changes, as I sit down for a public conversation with Terry Lanni, chairman and CEO of MGM MIRAGE, and Gary Loveman, president and CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment to discuss their perspectives on the business of gaming, how the industry has changed and where it is growing.
Lanni and Loveman will touch on the globalization of the gaming industry, but the real evidence of the international flavor of gaming will be found among the exhibitors and attendees at G2E. This year, non-US companies will constitute nearly 20 percent of the exhibit hall. And, as international markets are of increasing importance for executives here at home, we’ve also enhanced our programming to cover everything from an insider’s look at the emerging markets of Russia and Macau to the nuts and bolts of licensing and regulations.
Another incredible area of growth in the industry that will be highlighted at this year’s G2E is the maturation of the Native American gaming industry. This segment is sophisticated and innovative, and there are increasing synergies between commercial gaming and our Native American counterparts. The rapid growth of this industry segment has sparked some controversy in Washington, and a panel of government, regulatory and Native American gaming industry leaders will examine these new federal challenges in G2E’s first-ever keynote address focused on tribal gaming.
G2E also will feature new and expanded opportunities for all attendees with Native American interests. Additional programming includes a new tribal gaming government conference track for the G2E Training & Development Institute, a significantly expanded tribal government track for the larger G2E conference and dedicated networking opportunities for tribal gaming professionals. As the primary forum for developing relationships with a diverse range of industry professionals, G2E attracts more leaders from the growing tribal gaming sector each year.
The success of G2E is undeniable. We began in 2001 with just more than 8,600 attendees and 375 exhibitors. Last year, G2E boasted more than 700 exhibitors and a whopping more than 25,000 attendees. This year looks to be even stronger. To match the demand, G2E 2005 will have new extended hours for the trade show floor, giving attendees more time to experience the latest developments and trends to emerge in slot machine design, bingo products, security and surveillance technology, interactive gaming and more. Along with the more than 700 exhibitors, G2E will offer nearly 200 conference sessions, providing attendees with opportunities to expand their knowledge base in a focused area of expertise, as well as learn more about the broader industry, which allows attendees to remain competitive within the evolving industry.
Three decades ago, there were those in Las Vegas who actively fought against gaming expansion into Atlantic City, worrying that it would mean the end of Las Vegas as the center of the gaming universe. They could have not been more wrong. Certainly the industry has now grown well beyond the old days in Vegas – Grown geographically, across the nation and around the world. Grown in its business participants to include some of the world’s largest corporations and Native American tribes, and grown in the diversity of its entertainment offerings.
But despite these dramatic changes, Las Vegas remains at the epicenter of the gaming universe. And there is no better place to see what gaming has become and what its future holds than Global Gaming Expo 2005. See you in Las Vegas September 13-15. Don’t miss it.