Somehow I have always thought that the “live” events in the casino industry were the most important element of communication throughout our craft. I can remember the first World Gaming Congress that I attended at Showboat in Atlantic City back in the mid-’80s, followed a few years later by the International Gaming Business Exposition at the Tropicana in Las Vegas.
Being relatively new to the industry, it was exciting to meet the executives who ran both the casino operating companies and the suppliers. Having a heart-to-heart with people like Si Redd, who invented video poker, or Bob Stupak, the crazy man who ran Vegas World and dreamt up the Stratosphere, was something special for a former dealer.
We enjoyed those events so much that we started our own, the Southern Gaming Summit, the first conference and trade show that capitalized on regional gaming. When we partnered with what is now the Mississippi Gaming Association, we landed in Biloxi every spring for 15 years.
We later partnered with a Nevada law firm, investment bank Bear Stearns and the American Gaming Association to launch the American Gaming Summit, which was something of a gathering of all the gaming leaders held on the Las Vegas Strip—kind of a “Davos” for the gaming industry. While AGS only lasted a few years, it was very inspirational.
That’s why I’m so pleased to see meetings and conventions for the gaming industry returning. The International Casino Exposition (ICE) will return in London in early April, followed a week later by Indian Gaming 2022, commonly referred to as NIGA, in Anaheim, California. While the full slate of gaming trade shows and conventions won’t be back completely for another year—May’s G2E Asia in Macau has been delayed until late August—it’s a sign that things are getting back to “normal” and we’re able to move forward.
When the Global Gaming Expo was launched in 2001, I was honored to join it as a conference consultant, helping to determine what issues should be discussed, how to raise the educational programs in the industry and what keynote speakers would be most attractive to attendees.
Of course, the conflict between G2E and the World Gaming Congress, the two major trade shows in the business, was interesting. WGC was owned by International Gaming & Wagering Business (IGWB) magazine, and when G2E was announced, IGWB bought Casino Journal, the only other competing trade magazine in the gaming business in those days, which employed me. I decided to separate since I was not enamored with the executives who ran IGWB at the time, and because the entire reason for the purchase was to deny G2E any gaming publication with which to promote the show.
Frank Fahrenkopf, the president of the American Gaming Association at the time, asked me to launch a competing magazine, and Global Gaming Business was born. We became an integral part of the marketing of G2E and it only took one year for the WGC to close its doors.
So the return of ICE, NIGA and G2E later this year is an important step. And there’s no shortage of topics we need to address. The lingering effects of the pandemic, the growth of private equity in gaming, chaotic Asian Pacific markets, rapidly evolving technology, the explosive growth of cashless transactions, and the evolution of sports betting in the U.S. are just a few of the issues we’ll need to address during these upcoming conferences.
And if you thought the world stopped when it came to new games and hardware, you’d be sadly mistaken. The slot manufacturers are lining up a parade of innovative products, unique games with unusual game play, and seamless integration with the players, their money and their rewards. The new trade show floors are going to be bursting with creativity.
But most of all, I want to utilize those always-great networking events to shake some hands and give some hugs to people I’ve missed so much over the last two years. This pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but I think coming out of it, we all recognize what we had because its absence was so striking. So I hope to see you either at ICE or NIGA this month, but for sure at G2E in Las Vegas in October. Time to take the masks off!