The Indian Gaming Association reported Thursday a record in excess of 9,000 people attended its four-day Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention in San Diego.
That easily beats the 6,500 who attended IGA’s convention in Anaheim a year ago. The previous record stood at 8,500 for a conference in Las Vegas.
“Believe it or not, people are still signing up right now,” said conference chairman Victor Rocha as he sat on the tradeshow floor at the San Diego Convention Center just after 11 a.m. on Thursday. “It’s way beyond my expectations.”
Last week, show organizers foresaw a record crowd, citing early-registration numbers that approached 10,000. Next year, the convention returns to Anaheim.
“Anaheim was successful last year, but it could have been better,” Rocha said. “The prices were over the top and Disneyland was still under pandemic rules. We’re returning there and things are back to normal.”
This conference had a lot to offer, with a tradeshow featuring the latest in Class II gaming and other industry technology. Vendors were packed into the room from wall to wall.
“San Diego is a great place for us,” Rocha said. “This is our ancestral home. We might go to other places once in a while, but this is our home. Everyone loves it.”
At the Indian Gaming Association conference, Ernie Stevens Jr. was re-elected as IGA chairman to his 12th two-year term. Looking out at the crowd on the tradeshow floor on Thursday, he called it amazing how it continues to grow and bounce back from the pandemic.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I haven’t seen a Thursday like this,” Stevens said. “This is the last day and people are still out there.”
The conference featured educational sessions on Class II gaming growth, threats to tribal sovereignty and exclusivity, and the latest court cases that could derail tribal rights.
“The educational sessions were beyond our expectations,” Rocha said. “So many rooms were packed. People were active and participating. It seems to be getting better and better. They’re intended to prepare people for the future, like what’s happening with California sports betting. We learned that Class II gaming is still innovating (with its slots and gaming machines). That felt like the right choice to wrap the show around.”
The takeaway from this year’s conference was that it was more pro-business; a lot of deals were getting done, Rocha said. “Everyone was here for business,” Rocha said. “The theme of the show was ‘Let’s Make a Deal.'”
Gene Johnson, executive vice president of Victor Strategies who spoke during the conference, said he noticed a lot of new vendors and interesting topics discussed on the tradeshow floor, from the gaming implications of artificial intelligence to Web3.
“This conference is different, because many tribes better understand the issues facing them, now that sports betting and igaming are being operated by tribes,” Johnson said. “They’re much more informed and interested in learning more about new verticals and new ways of doing business.”
The 2024 show in Anaheim will be followed by 2025 and 2026 in San Diego and possibly Las Vegas in 2027.