March 14, 2022 Tribal, Interview, Conference

From the top: all systems go


As the Omicron wave eases, Gaming America speaks to the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) as the show comes to Anaheim in April.

The gaming industry, as is the case with the rest of the business world, yearns for a return to normalcy. Many thought the Covid spell was broken last year, when Las Vegas hosted two major in-person conferences – the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) show in July, then the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in October.
All eyes were on the ICE show in London, scheduled for February 1-3, 2022.

As you all know, the Omicron variant scuttled that plan, pushing ICE London back to dates TBD, later confirmed as April 12-14.

Coming up just one week later will be NIGA 2022, which will take place April 19-22 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Jason Giles, Executive Director of the National Indian Gaming Association, gave Gaming America a detailed look at what to expect at this year’s show, including which companies are planning to exhibit, and what it is like dealing with constantly updated restrictions from state and local authorities.

Gaming America: NIGA 2021 was held before the summer of the Delta variant, but it had strict health protocols, including a vaccination requirement. What were the final numbers for the conference in terms of number of exhibitors and number of attendees? How did those figures compare to the two most recent NIGA shows prior to Covid?

Jason Giles: We were very proud that this past July, the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention was the first large-scale gaming event to run in-person for the industry. Our participation was in step with 2019 numbers, as we brought together both tribal leaders and commercial gaming operators along with the industry’s top suppliers.

It is the “new normal” now that some attendees and exhibitors may need to make personal decisions on whether they are able to attend in-person events or may face evolving travel restrictions. We respect and understand that not every person is able to get back to attending tradeshows and they need to do what makes the most sense for themselves, families, businesses and communities. 

In the meantime, we will continue to strive to provide access to new strategies, technologies and relationships, both at the tradeshow and conference and throughout the year. Tribal gaming is a dominant force in the gaming community. The work we do empowers our tribal communities and generates important revenue for economic development.

GA: What are the expectations for NIGA 2022? Is the show going to attract the same number of exhibitors/attendees as 2021?

Giles: We are looking forward to the show and are excited to be back in Southern California. We feel it is a great destination as it is convenient for some of the nation’s largest tribal casinos, as well as those located on the Las Vegas Strip. Plus, there are great entertainment options, from a lively downtown to the nearby Disneyland Resort.

Our exhibit hall will be filled with all of the major players along with new emerging technologies and services for the next iteration of gaming expansion; including sports betting, iGaming, esports, cashless payments and more. We have support from major manufacturers, including Scientific Games, Everi, Novomatic Americas, Aruze, Ainsworth Game Technology, IGT, Konami Gaming, Aristocrat Technologies, Inc/VGT, Interblock Gaming, JCM Global, Quick Custom Intelligence, among many others.

We are excited to welcome (and welcome back!) exhibitors in emerging categories such as sports betting (Betfred, Kambi, GAN, DraftKings, United Tote) and payment solutions (NRT, FABICash, Global Payments, Trustly, Flexia, Sightline Payments). We expect for there to be more than 350 companies participating.

Our education program is built by our conference chairman, Victor Rocha of, and will focus on both the business fundamentals, as well as the strategies needed to succeed when faced with changes coming on the horizon. There will be strong emphasis on topics such as online gaming, sports betting, digital payments, casino expansion, gaming technology, artificial intelligence, cannabis, esports, politics and crypto, to name a few. Tracks will include Gaming Floor, Resort Operations (including Hospitality and Marketing), Enterprise Development, Sports Betting, Emerging Gaming, Politics and Policy, Hot Topics and Sovereignty. 

There will be content for every member of the operation including: tribal leaders and council members, commissioners/regulators, top executives (CFOs, CEOs, GMs, marketing, iGaming), facilities managers at hotels, casinos, bingo halls and resorts, economic development properties and security/surveillance managers.

We are excited to build new relationships, and celebrate the continued success of Indian Country and tribal gaming at several of our special events; including our annual golf tournaments, chairman’s welcome reception, Chairman’s Leadership Awards Luncheon and more taking place on our full event schedule.

GA: Please talk in detail about the challenges of holding in-person conferences during a pandemic. How do you deal with the uncertainty... Are there a lot of sleepless nights for the conference organizers? Are people saying they don’t want to attend even though there is a vaccination requirement? Conversely, are there any saying they won’t attend because there is a vaccination requirement?

Giles: It definitely can be tricky to navigate, but our top priority always is ensuring the safety of all exhibitors, attendees and staff at the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention. We will be following the guidelines issued by the CDC, state and local officials. Additionally, we are working with our travel partners, venues, hotels and convention centers to create a safe and productive environment to conduct business.

We have found that communication is key to ensure that everyone is aware of ever-changing guidelines and new policies. At the 2022 event, we are requiring proof of vaccination or, if a participant prefers, they can show proof of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival to the show. We will be following all local guidelines in regard to masks. Participants will be able to visit our website for the most up-to-date information. 

Again, we do realize that not everyone is able to join in person, so we have created a weekly webcast series since the onset of the pandemic moderated and created by Rocha. In this series, called “The New Normal,” we address timely issues facing operators and tribes. The series is available live and on-demand for anyone that may wish to participate or listen in. This is in addition to the year-round legislative work and updates provided by the National Indian Gaming Association.

GA: How would someone get information about the show?

Giles: Please be sure to visit our website for additional details. Registration is currently available and there are group discounts for teams bringing 4+ members. If you would like to exhibit, please contact Ed Gallo at [email protected]

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