Tribal gaming took center stage at the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention 2023, which returned to pre-Covid attendance rates as exhibitors and operators alike flocked to the San Diego Convention Center to see the latest and greatest innovations that the Indian gaming industry has to offer.
The record success of the U.S. gaming industry would not be possible without the role of tribal entities and operators, whose revenues from 2022 are expected to set a new record when they are released later this year.
In many ways, the sector has grown nearly to that of its commercial counterparts, with new and improved casino-resorts, expanded offerings and new business ventures in premium markets such as Las Vegas.
Thus, it came as no surprise that this year’s Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention was packed wall-to-wall with exhibitors, tribal representatives and patrons eager to show and discuss the latest innovations in and around the world of Indian gaming.
Day One: Crazy About Class II
The Foundation of Class II Gaming and its Continued Success
One of the most unique aspects of Indian gaming is the utilization of Class II gaming, which has served as an invaluable tool for tribes everywhere. This year’s show kicked off with an entire day of sessions dedicated to the ins and outs of Class II, starting with a history lesson from Gene Johnson, executive vice president of Victor Strategies, as well as Judith Shapiro from Big Fire Law and Policy Group.
The duo noted that Class II served as the entry point into Indian gaming for numerous tribes, given the fact that no state compact is needed to operate the games. Shapiro broke down the formation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in the late 1980s, and how it was (and still is) imperfect, but did give tribes a lot of freedom to expand and regulate Class II technology.
Next, Jeremy Tyra, partner at Kyprock Capital and CEO of C2S Gaming, explored how the Class II sector has evolved from humble beginnings to big business.
He pointed out that the definition of Class II gaming permits tribes “maximum flexibility” to utilize “modern methods of conducting Class II games,” which has served as a boon from an industry standpoint. More flexibility means more products, ultimately resulting in more business opportunities.
Of course, no discussion of the Class II sector would be complete without regulatory considerations, which were delivered by Sequoyah Simermeyer, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC). Simermeyer detailed how Class II is unique to the Indian gaming industry because it falls in between the Class I tier, which are unregulated games, and Class III, which applies to commercial games.
The day concluded with a presentation from representatives of the Pokagon Band Gaming Commission, the regulatory arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.
Day Two: Sights and Sounds
Trends to Come for the Rest of 2023
Day two began with a discussion about the trends that will grow throughout the rest of the year and beyond—first up was the proliferation of cashless payments. Lindsay Slader, managing director of GeoComply, joked that making any large-scale changes in the industry is “like steering the Titanic,” in that it’s very difficult and takes a lot of time, which is why cashless isn’t as widely accepted in gaming as it is elsewhere.
Under the Knife: Operating Properties Through Expansion, Construction
Tribal operators have expanded and remodeled like never before in recent years, and in most cases the existing property has remained operational throughout the process. In this session, contractors and operators gathered to discuss the challenges of navigating this tightrope.
The Ins and Outs of Alternate Standards
Alternate standards and how to achieve them were big points of discussion for the NIGC, and a host of commission representatives gathered the second day of the conference to discuss how tribes can apply for them.
Logan Takao-Cooper, staff attorney for the NIGC, offered some recent examples of approved alternate standards and how the language was adapted for each. All of the examples listed included mobile phones, tablets or other electronic devices not in circulation at the time of IGRA.