Global Gaming Expo (G2E) is always the climax of the year for gaming vendors and operators who want to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. In the past few years, broader coverage of iGaming, social gaming and compliance and regulatory issues have made it an important touchstone for the industry.
But nothing topped G2E 2015 when it comes to pinpointing a changing industry is such a dynamic way. The keynote presentations, conference program and special events created an atmosphere of excitement and expectation. Millennials, skill games, daily fantasy sports and eSports dominated the discussions. And of course, the exhibit floor displayed the latest and greatest products and services bound to find their way into casinos worldwide.
The new “Integrated Resort Experience,” a co-located trade show and conference dedicated to the all-important non-gaming goods and services, was a hit at G2E.
But on Monday, the day before the exhibit floor opened, conference sessions kicked off with an intensive program that featured a unique collaboration between the National Indian Gaming Association and the American Gaming Association.
Also on Monday, the fifth edition of G2E’s iGaming Congress featured a collection of sessions with expert speakers addressing the state of the iGaming industry today.
On Tuesday, the opening keynote address was delivered by famous card counter Jeffrey Ma, head of the team of MIT students who used math to bring down blackjack games across Las Vegas from 1994 to 2001 and inspired the book Bringing Down the House and the movie 21.
In a funny and engaging address, Ma used his experience as a card counter to demonstrate how data and analytics, which gave his famous team an edge over the casinos, can apply to the operation of a casino.
On Wednesday, in his first G2E appearance as CEO of Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Mark Frissora used the G2E CEO panel to urge manufacturers to accelerate work on creating skill-based slots and other innovations that will appeal to the millennial generation. Frissora said he is “shocked” at the lack of innovation from the slot-makers with respect to the millennials, rejecting one popular view that the younger players will evolve into traditional slot players as they grow older. “Are you kidding me? I know my kids,” he said in predicting that millennials will never sit down to play traditional slots.
“These games need to change,” he said. “The time is now.”
Frissora was joined on the panel by Rush Street Gaming CEO Greg Carlin and Scientific Games CEO Gavin Isaacs.
Cirque, Thrones, Pinball Lead Slots
But of course, the star of the show at G2E is always the exhibit floor. Major slot manufacturers saved some of their biggest game reveals for the week of G2E, with announcements of several new licensed slot themes made at or just before the big show.
Scientific Games Corporation used the show to announce a new partnership with legendary Canadian show troupe Cirque du Soleil. The first game to come out of the partnership, KOOZA, is based on the troupe’s touring show. According to game designer Jason Stage, it was decided to recreate that show in the first game because people around the country are familiar with the touring show, as opposed to the many shows that are staged only in Las Vegas.
Another theme revealed for the first time at G2E by Scientific Games is The Simpsons, a hilarious video slot based on the longest-running animated series in history. Clips from close to three decades of The Simpsons are woven into bonus rounds, highlighted by a new game mechanic called “Leap Motion” technology.
IGT made a major skill-game showing among the top slot manufacturers with Texas Tea Pinball, replicating one of the slot-maker’s biggest video-slot hits of the 1990s and early 2000s in a game with a bonus that transforms the slot into a working pinball machine, with several launching balls (instead of pinballs, they are rolled-up armadillos) and flippers worked via the spin button or a touch-screen panel.
The hybrid skill game reviving a major IGT proprietary brand was accompanied by major branded themes such as TMZ, a funny game based on the TMZ celebrity-gossip tabloid TV show.
Aristocrat also chimed in with major licensed-game launches, headed by a funny video slot based on the beloved 1983 holiday film A Christmas Story. Bonus rounds put the player in the place of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker, in the famous scene where he is faced down by a scary department-store Santa at the legendary Higbee’s in Cleveland (which is now, coincidentally, Horseshoe Cleveland).
At the show, Aristocrat launched its new Game of Thrones slot on the Arc Double. The game features three sets of reels—each representing one of the warring medieval royal families that duel on the popular HBO fantasy series.
Konami Gaming launched its new Concerto cabinet with Wheel of the Imperial Eggs, a game featuring beautiful artwork under three stand-alone progressive levels. Also on the Concerto is Lamp of Destiny, on the new KP3+ platform.
Konami also featured a new game on its innovative Rapid Revolver cabinet. In Lucky Sticks, free games and multipliers are set up by a classic Asian stick game that determines how many spots on the progressive drum display are active.
Everi, in its first G2E display as a combined company since the acquisition of Multimedia Games by the former Global Cash Access, featured new proprietary titles such as Her Majesty, a hilarious take on the Elizabethan British royal family, and Inca Goddess, on the new MPX Premium platform, featuring bonus reel sets in the form of a pyramid.
Other standouts from slot suppliers included Player’s Battle from Aruze, a two-player game with a competitive bonus based on the format of the company’s hit Player’s Battle; Dragon Fortune and Cinderella from Ainsworth, White Buffalo Dreamcatcher from AGS, Hauntsworth House and Big Prize Bubblegum from Incredible Technologies, and a groundbreaking new slot product from Casino Technology and Alto Gaming called Hot Rod—it is a slot built into a replica of a hot rod car.
Speaking of groundbreaking technology, Spin Games showed a new product called “Veriti,” a virtual reality system that takes slot games to a whole new level. Veriti is centered around a pair of goggles that takes the user into a virtual-reality world—a 45-by-45-foot, 3D room.
The nature of that space ultimately will depend on the slot theme in play. There are 45 digital social games loaded into the device. The initial room is essentially a dimensional theater, but eventually, it can be inside a pyramid, in the French Quarter or wherever else the game takes it.
There were innovations on the electronic bingo side from multi-national supplier Ortiz Gaming. Ortiz Gaming debuted its expanded product line, including new game types, cabinets, systems and a variety of options for any gaming platform.
Hall of Fame
The 2015 class inducted into the AGA Gaming Hall of Fame included several diverse new members: Victor Salerno of William Hill US, Lynn Valbuena of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and Navegante Group founder Larry J. Woolf.
In a ceremony at MGM Grand’s Mansion, the three candidates were lauded by AGA and MGM Resorts Chairman James Murren, and AGA President and CEO Geoff Freeman.
“Victor, Lynn and Larry are pioneers in the gaming industry and worthy of induction into a very special fraternity,” said Freeman. “Victor has been on the cutting edge of the sports gaming industry for decades, Lynn has been a staunch advocate for tribal rights and Larry’s business acumen has been the driving force for the success of several renowned properties.”
Salerno is the first bookmaker to enter into the Hall of Fame. Valbuena is only the second Native American, following NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens at last year’s ceremony. And Woolf helped to build the hotel where the ceremony was held, when he was the president of MGM back in the 1990s.
Casino Entertainment Awards
In the third annual Casino Entertainment Awards at G2E, big names took center stage at Vinyl in Hard Rock.
The magic duo Penn & Teller won top honors as “Casino Entertainers of the Year.” The act has a permanent showroom at the Rio. Little River Band was named musical artist of the year and Ron White won comedian of the year.
Charo presented Jerry Lewis with the Casino Entertainment Legend award. The iconic comedian first performed in Vegas showrooms in the early 1950s.
H. C. Rowe, executive director of the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, also received a Casino Entertainment Legend award, which recognizes lifetime achievement in the casino entertainment industry.
The Showroom at Turning Stone Resort Casino was named showroom of the year. AVA Amphitheater at Casino del Sol won amphitheater of the year.