By Richard N. Velotta
When the doors open to the world’s largest gaming convention in September in Las Vegas, it should come as no surprise that politics will be high on people’s minds.
The three-day Global Gaming Expo, known in the industry as G2E, begins at the Sands Expo and Convention Center on Sept. 27, about three weeks before Las Vegas hosts its first-ever presidential debate and five weeks before voters go to the polls to select a new president.
Where the candidates stand on gaming industry issues will be a prime topic at the convention and trade show, which is expected to attract more than 26,000 people from around the world.
For Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the sponsoring American Gaming Association, the politics of gaming will be one of many highlights for the show, which is getting an overhaul of sorts.
“The biggest difference between this year and previous years is the fact that we have done a top-to-bottom review of all things G2E,” Freeman said Tuesday.
“What works, what doesn’t, what needs to be modified. We want to make this event as timely, as compelling and as attractive as it needs to be,” Freeman said. “I’m proud of what our team has done to build this thing up from scratch, particularly around the educational conference.”
Educating members of the industry is a key component of G2E with dozens of panel discussions and seminars scheduled on topics such as e-sports, online gaming in the United States and how to attract millennial customers to casinos.
Freeman said among the conference topics will be where the candidates stand on gaming issues and what scenarios could play out depending on who is elected. Freeman said other important political races are expected to be reviewed as well.
Freeman also said there would be three days of keynote addresses and while the association isn’t expected to announce its lineup for a few weeks, Freeman believes attendees will be surprised at the caliber of experts that are planned.
The association also is making a greater effort at aligning itself with the National Indian Gaming Association on topics of mutual interest.
“It’s a greater alignment between AGA and NIGA and a greater alignment within AGA among commercial operators and tribal operators,” Freeman said.
“I’m not naive and I realize there’s still a lot of great competition taking place between tribes and commercial gaming entities,” he said. “There’s consternation out there over several issues. But at the end of the day, when we look at a lot of the big issues, there’s more where we align than what divides us. That’s really going to be a theme for this G2E, that the rising tide will raise all ships and that’s what Ernie (NIGA Chairman Ernest Stevens Jr.) and I will be speaking to. Our relationship with the tribal community has never been stronger and I think that bodes well for the future of the entire gaming industry.”
One of the characteristics of the trade-show floor at G2E is the abundance of new gaming technology, often in the form of aisles and aisles of new types of slot machines. Freeman said the show floor will see an innovation this year by bringing integrated resort concepts into the mix. The world knows large casino properties as “integrated resorts” because they offer a variety of non-gaming amenities to attract additional customers. The integrated resort experience debuted at last year’s show in side room off the trade-show floor. This year, it will be on the floor.
“We’re very excited about the growth of the integrated resort experience,” Freeman said. “It’s a miniature version of what this industry has become. Any casino you walk into today is providing a multitude of entertainment options to their customers and it’s important that our event do the same.
“They’re also interested in the latest development in food and lodging and clubs and we’re providing a one-stop shop for buyers to look around at those things,” Freeman said. “It will become a central focus of G2E.”
G2E is open to casino industry employees. Registration and cost to register hasn’t been posted, but industry employees working for AGA member companies can get discounted registration.