Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention returns to San Diego

February 16, 2023 8:53 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
February 16, 2023 8:53 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

The organizers of the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention expect the largest trade-show floor in its history when it returns to San Diego March 27-30. Tribal sovereignty and the potential impact of gaming in Texas are among the panel discussions.

Story continues below

The Indian Gaming Association is hosting this year’s show at the San Diego Convention Center, after holding the 2022 event in Anaheim. Registration is available now.

Conference Chairman Victor Rocha expects attendance to be greater than 2022’s event, given that San Diego is a popular venue among attendees. The Anaheim conference attracted an estimated 6,500. Between 8,000 and 9,000 attended the Las Vegas convention in 2018.

“Being back in our traditional home in San Diego will make a big difference,” Rocha said.

This year’s show will feature more than 380 exhibitors, displaying new products, services, and technology. More than 60 will be new to the conference. Featured will be slot machines and table games, hospitality and facilities services, sports-betting and payment-processing technology, and marketing, security, and surveillance solutions.

The conference gets under way at 1 p.m. on March 27 with four classroom sessions on Class II gaming. The traditional part of the conference, with varied panel discussions, starts the next day. The tradeshow will be held over the final two days.

A major theme of the 2022 show was tribal sports betting in California. This year, Texas, tribal sovereignty, and legal cases impacting gaming will come into focus at the conference.

Casino gaming in Texas has been simmering for years and appears to be on the cusp of change with a new bill pending in the 2023 legislature. State officials have sent mixed messages about whether they’ll continue to oppose the expansion or will accept the inevitable. Expanded tribal and commercial gambling in Texas will impact all U.S. gaming centers, Rocha said.

Against this backdrop, another landmark ruling accelerates efforts toward Texas gaming. The Supreme Court ruled last summer, in Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. State of Texas, that two Texas tribes have the sovereign right to engage in electronic bingo, capping a monumental 30-year legal battle.

“One of the one sessions I’m excited about is the loss of market exclusivity,” Rocha said. “It emphasizes what’s possible in Texas. If Texas gets gaming, what will happen to the Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana tribes that rely on Texas for the drive-in market? The tribes need to be concerned about exclusivity. It’s not just worrying, but focusing on speeding up diversification and investment and understanding that the future isn’t written.”

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. has hired lobbyists and contributed millions of dollars to Texas lawmakers and legislative groups.

“Sands seems pretty determined,” Rocha said. “Lieutenant Gov. (Dan) Patrick said it’s not going to happen, but there’s way too much money involved.”

There’s a session on the erosion of tribal exclusivity in gaming and how it has come under attack with the expansion of sports betting and commercial-casino interest in card rooms and lottery VLTs. It features Gene Johnson, executive vice president for Victor Strategies, and Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe in Connecticut.

Other panel discussions include mobile gaming, cannabis, responsible gaming, crypto in gaming, 2023 trends, the labor crisis, tribes pursuing commercial ventures, digital payments, regulation, construction and expansion, combating human trafficking, sports betting, cybersecurity, and slots and table games.

On the first afternoon of the conference, Rocha said they will have a deep dive into Class II gaming, which is “perfectly timed” with the announcement earlier this year by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians that the tribe is pulling out state oversight of its gaming operations. Instead, the tribe will move toward self-government. Under Class II, tribes can offer bingo and non-banked games by dealing with the National Indian Gaming Commission. (Class III includes slots, tables, and electronic games.)

“Right when I decided that’s what I wanted, Rincon made that announcement that they’re going all Class II and getting rid of the state compact,” Rocha said. “You’re seeing more and more tribes going Class II. It’s a well-established path for tribes to go into gaming.”

Another discussion at the conference will be about the full integrated resort experience, either big or small.

“It’s about creating these wonderful environments for gaming, with their architecture and design,” Rocha said.