G2E 2004 was the biggest ever

Oct 12, 2004 4:18 AM

BY GT STAFF

The Global Gaming Expo (G2E) trade show last week was the largest in the four years the conference has been staged by the American Gaming Association and Reed Exhibitions. More than 26,000 people attended the three-day expo, while 700 exhibitors covered more than 250,000 square feet of convention center space — all records.

Also setting all-time records were the number of international exhibitors (106), the number of countries represented (26) and the number of conference sessions (140).

G2E is held at the Las Vegas Convention Center each year. It was formed in 2001 from the merger of two gaming trade shows, the original Global Gaming Expo and the World Gaming Congress.

Taxes peeve gamers

Gaming executives in a panel discussion complained about high tax rates on gaming in some jurisdictions, as well as a misunderstood image in others.

"Does the mob still run us?" is the first question every new national gaming reporter asks Frank Fahrenkopf, the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, he told the other panel members. "We’ve got to communicate with them better."

Harrah’s President Gary Loveman added, "There’s a widespread misrepresentation of what we do."

On the issue of taxation, Fahrenkopf said gaming states are "easy pickings" for onerous taxation. He cited a nearly 70 percent gaming tax in Illinois and a 50 percent tax in Pennsylvania.

A new cash cow?

"Macau’s like Las Vegas was in the early ”˜70s," said Jim Kilby, former vice president of marketing at the Rio and current professor at UNLV. "If you build it, they will come. Stanley Ho had a monopoly there for 40 years, but now Steve Wynn, The Venetian, MGM Mirage and several others will be major investors."

Kilby said the major drawback is the Triads, a Chinese version of the Mafia, which deals in organized crime and money laundering.

"That is a concern, but the Communist government in China has cracked down on them and the situation has improved considerably," he said. "With the world’s greatest population source just two hours away, Macao could pass Atlantic City as the No. 2 gambling venue in the world by 2014."

Net ban helps Vegas

Brett Hale, vice president of the American Gaming Association, said that Washington has redirected its fight against gambling toward the Internet.

"This week, in fact, there is a bill to include the Internet in proposed 9-11 legislation," Hale said during a packed conference hall at the G2E.

"That doesn’t mean sports betting is out of the woods, but Nevada has some good people in there lobbying and it’s not likely anything will come up as a threat right now."

Asked whether legalized sports wagering would be in better shape under President Bush or John Kerry, Hale said with a smile, "I’m really not a political guy, but Republicans always seem more comfortable about gambling. Even John McCain has backed off a bit on his anti-sports betting position."

Vegas’ still No. 1

A survey released at G2E indicated that 78 percent of the 2,500 gamblers polled said they would rather play in Las Vegas than any other destination.

"The only screen in the survey was that the customer had to have visited a casino at least once in the past 90 days," said Stephen Szapor, CEO of The Innovation Group. "Our findings also showed that 62 percent chose an overnight trip to gamble in the past year, meaning that hotel accommodations are a must."

The survey also revealed that two-thirds of active gamblers prefer playing slots and that 82 percent of that two-thirds majority felt safety was the top priority in choosing where to gamble. Szapor said the poll’s margin of error was 2.5 percent.

Here come the Brits

British Communications announced it will partner with a leading gaming and hospitality consulting firm, White Sand, to widen its international gaming market.

"We look forward to bringing the benefits of this winning partnership to all the leading players in the U.S. gaming industry," said Paul Harrison, vice president of British Travel and Leisure North America. "With the regulations changing all through Great Britain, we came to Las Vegas to spread the word.

"Right now there are 2,000 people in the U.S. that we consult," he continued. "We’re very excited about our situation."

BT will be dealing with 22 resorts in the UK, located in major cities such as London, Newcastle and Liverpool. "We are looking to work with casinos that can supply between 250-500 hotel rooms in those British venues."

AGA design survey results

Each year at G2E, the AGA releases results of its annual casino design survey. Here are some key results:

”¡ 31 percent said Borgata was the best-designed casino they had ever visited. Mandalay Bay was second with Bellagio and Mirage tied for third.

”¡ 71 percent said that themes are no longer import to casinos.

”¡ 76 percent said that signature attractions such as Bellagio’s fountains and Mirage’s volcano will remain important to future casino designs.

”¡ 53 percent said that production shows and headliner entertainment will become less important as trendy nightclubs and "ultra" lounges become more widespread.

”¡ 82 percent said high-speed Internet access is a top room amenity while only 29 percent said the same thing about Jacuzzi bathtubs.