While many of you have just returned from Las Vegas after attending Global Gaming Expo (G2E), I thought I’d use my space here to look back on some highlights from our second annual industry trade show and conference.
Without a doubt, G2E 2002 was one of the most well-attended gaming industry trade events ever produced. According to preliminary, unaudited numbers, more than 13,000 people attended G2E. This year’s attendance - which included approximately 10,500 show attendees and 2,500 conference attendees - represented a 53 percent increase over last year. These figures do not include speakers, press, staff, exhibitors, or participants in the Gaming Investment Forum.
The Gaming Investment Forum, principally sponsored by Bear Stearns & Co. Inc. and Goldman Sachs & Co., Inc., offered an additional platform for more than 350 attendees to learn about the business plans of large-cap, mid-cap and small-cap companies in the gaming industry directly from those companies’ top executives. With its two-year track record of success, the Gaming Investment Forum is fast becoming the industry’s premier gathering of gaming companies, analysts and potential investors.
The main focus at any industry trade event is always the show itself. And this year’s G2E didn’t disappoint. The show floor, with 190,500 square feet of exhibit space, featured the products and services of more than 600 companies, including all the leading manufacturers and suppliers to the gaming industry worldwide. These figures represent a 43 percent increase in exhibit space and a 64 percent increase in exhibitors compared to 2001. With more than 10,000 people attending the show, the exhibit floor was constantly busy with prospective buyers evaluating the latest and greatest the industry has to offer. Even on the final day, just 15 minutes before the show closed, the floor was still crowded with prospective buyers.
True to our industry’s focus, G2E continued its tradition of high-end entertainment with its lineup of keynote speakers. Veteran journalist Sam Donaldson kicked off the show before an audience of more than 1,000 attendees. He related his experiences covering five U.S. presidents and shared his views on the current international situation and how it might impact the gaming industry - all with the inimitable style only Sam Donaldson can bring.
On the show’s closing day, gaming and entertainment industry pioneer Merv Griffin was part of a featured Q&A called “Ask Merv!” The tables were turned on the former television talk show host, who was interviewed by his biographer, David Bender. Some of the topics of discussion were Griffin’s early days as an entertainer in Las Vegas and his tenure as a casino owner of Resorts International in Atlantic City, N.J., and Paradise Island in the Bahamas, as well as one of the original investors in Players International. Griffin was introduced by a former employee who helped him run his casino operations, Park Place Entertainment President and CEO Tom Gallagher.
The entertainment focus continued with the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which featured Wheel of Fortune host Charlie O’Donnell and stars Pat Sajack and Vanna White pulling the handle of the G2E slot machine to officially open the show. And, yes, Elvis was definitely in the house.
The participation of the industry’s top executives was evident from beginning to end. At the ribbon cutting, I was joined by AGA board members Chuck Mathewson, chairman of IGT; Jim Perry, president and CEO of Argosy Gaming; Des Randall, CEO of Aristocrat; Phil Satre, chairman and CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment; Don Snyder, president of Boyd Gaming; and David Thompson, chairman of Mikohn Gaming. Also with us were representatives from G2E supporting organizations, including Ernie Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA); Robert McMonigle, president of the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM); Bepi Mottes, chairman of the European Gaming Organisation (EGO); Martin Canepa, president of the Asociacion Latinoamericana de Juegos de Azar (ALAJA); and Richard Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Interactive Gaming Institute.
These top executives and others - including Tom Gallagher, president and CEO of Park Place Entertainment; Terry Lanni, chairman and CEO of MGM MIRAGE; and Gary Loveman, president and chief operating officer of Harrah’s Entertainment - were among the moderators and speakers in the conference program that featured more than 100 educational sessions. Most of the conference sessions were standing room only, covering topics ranging from the convergence of different segments of the gaming industry, to disordered gambling, to a wide range of operational and marketing issues. The only complaint we received regarding content is that there was simply too much!
Because G2E provides an opportunity for everyone involved in gaming to come together to learn about the latest issues, products and services, it also has become the ideal time to recognize individual achievements in the industry. That happened at two G2E special events: the AGA Awards Dinner Honoring America’s Gaming Greats and the AGA Communications Awards luncheon.
At the dinner, the industry recognized Merv Griffin with a lifetime achievement award for entertainment and gaming and Shannon Bybee, a University of Nevada-Las Vegas professor and former casino regulator and executive, with a special achievement award for responsible gaming. Again, entertainment was a common thread, as dinner attendees were treated to performances by R&B legend Gladys Knight, dancers from Moulin Rouge and singer/impressionist Andre-Philippe Gagnon.
The Communications Awards, sponsored by Goldman, Sachs & Co., Inc., in just two years has firmly established itself as the gaming industry’s premier awards program recognizing achievements in financial and corporate communications. The winners of the Gaming Voice award, selected by a blue-ribbon panel of judges from the financial, travel/tourism, publishing, advertising and Internet industries, included Argosy Gaming for best annual report (small- or mid-cap company), best annual report overall and best print publication (corporate), MGM MIRAGE for best annual report (large-cap company) and best Web site (www.bellagio.com), The Borgata hotel-casino for best print publication (property/vendor/public agency), Kerzner International and MGM MIRAGE (tie) for best consumer print ad campaign, Casino Rama for best consumer broadcast ad campaign, IGT for best annual report (gaming vendor), the Arizona Lottery for best annual report (public agency) and the Ontario Lottery for best annual report (international). A lifetime achievement award was given to Chuck DiRocco, publisher of Gaming Today.
Also at the luncheon, HVS Executive Search presented Argosy Gaming with its Top Performing Board of Directors award and Ameristar President and CEO Craig Neilsen with its Top Performing CEO of the Year award, while the Casino Management Association (CMA) honored MGM MIRAGE Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Alan Feldman with its Gaming Professional of the Year award.
Whether it was at the trade show, the conference, the special events, or through informal networking, G2E 2002 made a strong statement about the future of our industry. With the guidance of our AGA members and other key industry organizations both in the United States and abroad, we have been able to make G2E reflect the needs of the entire gaming industry. If attendance and sales are any indication, we’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations and expect to continue to grow as the pre-eminent international trade show and conference for the gaming industry.
We hope to see all of you back next year (and some new faces, too) for G2E 2003, Sept. 16-18 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.