If you were stuck in a human traffic jam between booths, you would find it hard to believe that anyone in gaming was not at G2E. However, in the rare event that you did not make the show, here are a few quick highlights:
• Thursday is always the slow day at G2E. There are so few customers that the vendors created an unwritten code that it was OK to visit competitors’ booths since then no one would bother the paying customers. Funny thing happened in 2022: Thursday was packed. The crowds were bigger than any day during the 2020 show and perhaps as big as a Tuesday/ Wednesday in any year. It seems no one went home??? The final tally of attendees from the organizers was 25,000 with 350 vendor booths. That’s 7,000 more attendees and 100 more vendors than in 2020.
• The team member shuffling is still underway. The list of sales folks still working where they were a few years back is extremely small. At the highest level, there hasn’t been quite as much movement this past year, but Andrew Burke (ex-AGS) is now CEO at Bluberi, and he grabbed a bunch of industry veterans from his old shop as well as raiding a few from Konami and IGT. Retired Scientific Games gaming boss Derik Mooberry came off the couch and is now USA CEO for Zitro.
• The two hot topics for the seminars and the G2E water cooler gossip didn’t change much from last season: Cashless Gaming and Sports Betting. “Skill-based” games (the great hope to capture the elusive Millennial in 2019) were nowhere to be found. I may have missed them, but probably not since you could generally “hear” their booths from 10 rows away. Perhaps they are huddling with “server-based games” devotees and goggle-wearing VR fans to plot a joint comeback.
• In one last mention of Millennials, a G2E visit downtown or to the Strip confirmed that this generation (despite the dire predictions of the past) is out in force and spending money. On football Sundays, you had to look long and hard to even find an authentic Baby Boomer in joints like downtown’s new Circa. They were, however, packed with those gamblers still years away from Medicare. The rumors of our industry’s rapidly approaching death have been greatly exaggerated.
• Two other oft-discussed topics this year were new & improved Analytics, (particularly in the Marketing area) and the scary subject of Cyber Security.
• The international market was back! Slowed by travel restrictions last year, there were strong turnouts from both European and Asian vendors at this show.
• There were very long lines for G2E registration on Tuesday morning. Despite some great improvements in the process by the organizers, it would be nearly impossible to avoid some longer wait times given the huge crowds.
• Unlike the Anaheim IGA show in the Spring, the aisles in Las Vegas were carpeted. And most booths featured “double padding.” This was a welcome treat for Thursday’s sore feet. Perhaps only the shoe vendors in the Sketchers booth were unhappy about that.
• Scientific Games experimented with an invitation-only, walled-off booth in 2019. They had to change their name to Light & Wonder so that no one would remember that blunder. This year only Interblock sought to keep the unwashed and unwelcomed from seeing any of their products. Perhaps they were concerned that someone might see their revolutionary new games called “Blackjack” and “Roulette”. Aristocrat had a fanatical team zealously scanning anyone trying to enter their booth, but I didn’t see them turn anyone away. And they had no visual barriers.
• Speaking of the Australians, there was a lot of buzz about ATI’s National Football League brand deal. It includes both NFL players and teams. They denied that it was the most expensive brand contract ever, but it couldn’t have been cheap. (TIP: Try and figure out why Scientific Games couldn’t make NASCAR work). The launch date is the start of the ‘23/’24 NFL season.
• My, how attitudes among football (and baseball and basketball) honchos has changed over the years! Time was when they were outraged if there was a single casino logo to be found anywhere in their stadiums. Now they’re desperately seeking any bet they can find like Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler.
• As always, the party scene was great, if not fairly standard. It ranged from mega events at Allegiant Stadium to smaller affairs at nearly every bar/restaurant in town. One request to vendors: when holding events in nightclubs, turn the volume of the music down just a bit. The real joy of sharing a cocktail and getting together is conversation. In a few places, that was nearly impossible without shouting. This can be tough on vocal cords that are already strained from days on the show floor. I know. I know. I know: “If it’s too loud, you’re probably too old.”
• While most things are back to normal, the pandemic “supply side” issues are still with us. Deliveries tend to be six months instead of 90 days. It seems to have hit everyone equally with the most pain coming from the most popular suppliers. One surprise: bill validator parts are like gold these days – hard to find and expensive.
Overall, this show represented a wonderful comeback. It was well executed from almost every perspective. While worldwide inflation and a rumored recession were in the back of everyone’s mind, the mood at G2E was very upbeat and optimistic. Congratulations to AGA and their expo team for a great event. They’ll be back at the same place October 9-12, 2023. (One small area to improve was the weak and limited food offerings inside the Expo Hall. That seems ironic since the F&B just outside in the Venetian/Palazzo is superb.)