G2E forced to have different look

The Global Gaming Expo, known as G2E that normally brings some 27,000 gaming industry executives from around the world to Las Vegas is going virtual next week.

The industry’s 20th annual trade show originally set for Oct. 5-8 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center will instead take place online Oct. 27-28. Las Vegas’ slot manufacturers and companies that serve the gaming industry won’t have a trade show floor to display their new machines and technology. But they are counting on the virtual event to help with the gaming industry’s ongoing recovery into 2021.

Cait DeBaun, senior director of strategic communications and responsibility for the American Gaming Association, said since the pandemic hit, they knew G2E would need to change. They canceled the in-person event over the summer when they didn’t know what travel and convention restrictions would be in place.

Nevada has recently upped its limit from 50 to 250 people to attend conferences.

“Although we don’t have an in-person event, we wanted a platform for the industry to connect to share common learnings on how to conduct business, to network and have a conversation of what our recovery looks like,” DeBaun said.

The topics of the educational portions of the conference cover a range of issues from sports betting, payments, responsible gaming, and iGaming. There’s also the virtual trade show and networking events online.

The focus of the conference is always about innovation and the future of gaming. But this year’s event deals with what the next six, 12 and 24 months will be like and features AGA President and CEO Bill Miller’s outlook.

DeBaun said this year’s show will provide lessons about how to include virtual elements in future shows. There are also plans to launch year-round virtual events that take G2E beyond October.

The in-person shows have been used by Las Vegas-based companies to showcase their products to casino operators across the world. Companies will now have to use the virtual show and alternatives to make up for that loss.

“We created the virtual showrooms this year to take some of the experience exhibitors and buyers have in person at the Sands Expo center and bring it online,” DeBaun said. “You can’t create those large, impressive and innovative booths that they offer, but you can still bring your content.

“We’ve seen great interest from our suppliers to show off the great products they offer in any given year. But they are also displaying products that respond to the pandemic and how casinos had to pivot to responsibly reopening and focus on sanitization and casino-floor spacing with products that didn’t exist six months ago.”

Konami Gaming Inc. Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Thomas Jingoli said the Las Vegas-based slot maker and gaming management systems company will miss the opportunity of not meeting with and being in front of customers at the trade show.

“It’s definitely different, but it’s important as a company we get in front of our customers any way we can,” Jingoli said. “Doing the virtual G2E trade show is a good opportunity for all of us showcasing products. Hopefully, we will get good visitation from our customers.”

Jingoli said Konami has had a good turnout already of customers willing to travel to Las Vegas for pre-G2E meetings on a smaller scale. More are scheduled for the next 30 days, he said.

“Customers are starting to get out and move a little bit, as is all of our competition,” Jingoli said. “We’re also doing our own virtual showroom. A lot has changed in 2020 for sure.”

Nothing, however, can make up for the in-person meetings and having a defined date and time in an exhibition hall where customers can see everything in one location.

The cancellation of the in-person show comes at a time the industry is dealing with reduced revenues and reduced capital expenditure budgets.

Jingoli said it’s been difficult for the gaming industry in Las Vegas, especially properties on the Strip. But there are pockets across the country with regional and tribal casinos that are seeing recovery. Products make a difference no matter the state of the industry, he said.

“The good thing about our industry is when you have a product that performs at a high level, it seems to always find a way to get on the casino floor,” Jingoli said. “We’re seeing some of that for sure. It’s not at the volume we had pre-Covid, but there’s certainly interest out there. On our systems side, we’re going to have a record year in terms of connections and revenue. There’s business to be had out there.”

Konami’s hot product is called All Aboard — a successful slot brought to the U.S. from Australia. There are 125 of those games out on floors in North America today.

“Everywhere we placed it, it’s performing three times the house average,” Jingoli said. “We’re extremely excited about it.”

Konami is also poised for 2021 by being named the exclusive gaming system management partner for Resorts World Las Vegas that opens in the summer. Jingoli called that a “huge opportunity” for the company.

The system is a marketing, communications and tracking tool to increase player engagement through individual customized incentives. It also assesses casino performance through detailed analytics and manages accounting, slot and table operations.