Defying the odds and conventional wisdom, the World Gaming Congress & Expo expects to draw up to 18,000 conventioneers this week.
The three-day show, which opens at the Sands Expo & Convention Center on Wednesday, will feature more than 500 exhibitors and 250 speakers. Attendees are coming from 75 nations, and from every major casino company in Las Vegas.
WGCE wraps up with a major announcement by Steve Wynn, who is scheduled on Friday to unveil his vision for the Desert Inn property. His plans have been kept tightly under wraps and unconfirmed reports say WGCE is paying Wynn a six-figure fee to make his pitch at the show.
The gaming industry conclave, marking its 15th year, had some company earlier this month when the Global Gaming Expo launched its inaugural show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. That competition, along with continuing fallout from the East Coast terrorist attacks, was expected to dampen WGCE’s turnout. But the numbers tell a different story.
“It’s been a rough month for our country and our industry, but judging from the large number of exhibitors and pre-registered attendees, we know this will be another great WGCE,’’ said Brian Vargas, senior vice president for producer GEM Communications.
Mindful of the economic turmoil buffeting casinos and their employees, WGCE will host a free seminar for laid-off industry workers. “Bouncing Back From Being Laid Off’’ will be presented from 1-3 p.m. Wednesday in Room 204 of the Sands. All casino industry workers are invited to attend.
The seminar will be facilitated by Shelly Field, a nationally known career consultant, stress management expert and author of more than 25 books, including “Career Opportunities in Casinos and Casino Hotels” and “The Unofficial Guide to Hot Careers.”
“Clearly there is an urgent need to address the needs of the thousands of casino industry workers who have recently lost their jobs,’’ Vargas said. “To not act proactively on this crisis would be a disservice to these people and to the industry as a whole.’’
Preceding Wynn’s Friday morning announcement, conventioneers will hear a keynote address from Ernest L. Stevens, Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, on Wednesday. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is also scheduled to speak at the opening ceremonies.
Thursday’s keynoter is Erin Brockovich, a former law office file clerk who launched an investigation that led to a $333 million judgment against Pacific Gas and Electric. Her story was documented in an eponymous Hollywood film starring Julia Roberts.
Highlights of WGCE’s daily programs include panels on lotteries and linked electronic games; parimutuel wagering; Indian gaming; international and jurisdictional updates; Internet gaming; gaming and the law; human resources; operations; marketing; and a series of presentations by the UNLV school of hotel management. Programs begin at 10 a.m. and finish by 2 p.m. each day.
Operations sessions include “Meet the GMs’’ and “Sure-fire Ways to Cut Costs and Improve Results on Your Slot Floor’’ as well as a three-day breakout provocatively titled “Casino Darwinism.’’ On Friday, a marketing panel will discuss “Best and Worst Casino Promotions.’’
On the exhibition floor, some 500 companies from every segment of the industry will fill the 500,000-square-foot Sands hall. Three specialty pavilions will feature products and services: the Hospitality Pavilion and two new offerings, the Entertainment Industry Pavilion and the Gaming Technology Pavilion.
Exhibits open at noon and close at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday’s schedule concludes at 5 p.m.
For registration information, call (203) 852-1340, ext. 6300 or log onto www. worldgamingcongress.com.