When analysts from Merrill Lynch announced 18 months ago that they anticipated there would be 50 new casinos in Asia by 2012, the prediction was met with excitement and – if the truth be told – a degree of skepticism. Today that growth is an everyday fact for our industry, legitimizing the increasingly global nature of gaming entertainment.
From the flourishing market in Macau to the legalization of casinos in Singapore to the consideration of new and expanded gaming operations in a host of other Asian countries – the Asian markets have become a favorite topic for industry insiders, analysts and spectators alike. That interest has been further fueled by reports that Macau has surpassed the Las Vegas Strip as the world’s largest gaming marketplace.
As in any marketplace, the ability to sustain such explosive growth relies on an industry’s eagerness to adopt and refine the latest technologies, newest innovations and biggest ideas to fit its needs and the needs of its customers. For the past six years, Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas has been the premier business and networking forum for our industry, providing the type of product review and idea-sharing opportunities that make sustainable growth a reality.
Though the flagship G2E event attracts hundreds of attendees from Asia each year, the leadership of the American Gaming Association and Reed Exhibitions – co-sponsors of the G2E portfolio of events – saw the need for the same caliber of trade show and conference event in Asia that would specifically address the needs and interests of the industry’s fastest-growing marketplace. We created G2E Asia for just that purpose. Located squarely in the gaming capital of the East, G2E Asia will debut June 13-14 at the Macau Convention & Entertainment Center.
Much like the flagship G2E, G2E Asia will offer a unique attendee experience that combines the cutting-edge trade show, world-class conference content and unbeatable networking opportunities only G2E events can promise. The trade show at this inaugural G2E Asia will provide the ideal setting in which global gaming equipment suppliers and service providers can showcase their latest products, technologies and solutions for key decision-makers from leading casino companies.
The conference at G2E Asia, with content created by an advisory board of industry leaders and analysts from the region, will feature informed experts and industry innovators in sessions that explore the state of the Asian gaming markets and the latest trends taking hold there, including how new technology for table games will revolutionize operations at Asian establishments, the outlook for the success of slot machines in the region, and insights on how to introduce and incorporate gaming into new jurisdictions.
One aspect of the G2E Asia program that will be particularly important for attendees and followers of the industry is a focus on responsible gaming. This critical issue already has earned some focus in Asia as it is the single biggest challenge the industry faces in every jurisdiction where it operates. Several nations in the region, along with local and U.S. companies entering the market, are already leading efforts to address problem gambling. G2E Asia will provide a setting for attendees to learn about these programs, including the efforts of the National Center for Responsible Gaming; the national framework established in Singapore to address problem gambling, which was unveiled four years before the expected completion of the first integrated casino resort in the country; and Hong Kong’s innovative Ping Wo Fund, a charitable trust fund overseen by the Secretary of Home Affairs that finances research, public education programs and treatment services.
Another subject that will be explored during the conference is regulation and the challenges it presents for gaming companies doing business in several international jurisdictions. Integrity and transparency are the hallmarks of modern U.S. gaming operations, which means governments, employees and customers depend on gaming companies to provide a reliable product. Challenges do exist, however, when it comes to regulatory issues such as licensing and compliance, multi-jurisdictional issues, information sharing, gaming standards and more, particularly in growing markets and markets with a significant international presence.
On top of all these challenges comes the prospect that the global expansion of gaming will provoke industry opponents to step up their game. U.S. industry leaders know this course all too well, and with gaming executives in the Asian markets already beginning to feel some of the same opposition, I have no doubt this will be a heavily discussed topic at G2E Asia’s conference and networking events.
As I said, integrity and transparency are the hallmarks of our industry here in the United States, but that didn’t stop opponents from coming after us again and again. Among the most important things we learned in the early years of gaming in the U.S. was that our willingness to be transparent made it difficult for opponents’ false claims about the industry to stick. Today, the Asian markets must do the same, for while progress has been made, there is still work to be done in this area. With its recognition of the unique circumstances surrounding the Asian gaming environment, G2E Asia will offer industry leaders in the region an impetus to come together and begin to tackle these issues on a broader scale.
The legitimacy of the gaming industry – the value of it as an economic force and social mainstay – is undeniable. It is an international business that is bringing entertainment, economic prosperity and goodwill to millions, with the prospect of billions now that the Asian market is burgeoning. G2E Asia 2007 is the first of what will become an annual tradition for the Asian gaming industry; the 2008 event already is scheduled to take place at the Venetian Macao, opening later this summer, which will provide the extra space needed given this year’s sold-out trade show floor. We are looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership in Asia that will allow professionals in our industry to not only trade knowledge and expertise, but also acquire the tools to make their businesses, and by extension our industry, as successful as possible. To crib a line from the famed Casablanca movie script: This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.