November 14, 2022 Conference

Guess who's back

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Gaming America explores the floor of the biggest gaming trade show in the country to get a sense of where things stand.

In Las Vegas, the long corridor leading from the casino floor to the Venetian Expo was chock-a-block with people on each day of G2E 2022, as representatives, players, and movers and shakers from the gambling industry filed in to celebrate a return to form after last year’s event had been held under the cloud of Covid-19, at half capacity, and after the 2020 event had been canceled altogether. In total, it was announced that 25,000 showed up for the event that was held from October 10-13, a figure nearly double than that of the year before. The mood was giddy as everyone was ‘happy to be back,’ the most common refrain heard throughout.

Walking into the cavernous, blue-carpeted trade show venue, the attendee was met with the hum and din of these many thousands of enthusiasts. Before them was row after row, aisle after aisle, of booths set up by companies – mostly suppliers, game developers, and big manufacturers.

Here was Evolution with a screen prominently placed of such size and fidelity to cause any movie theater owner to blush. Moving to the center of the room, you would come across the suppliers of cashless technology, of casino management systems, of data analysts, and of the top cyber security companies in the industry. The fun was placed along the back wall: the major slot and ETG developers, who occupied by far the largest, loudest and most colorful booths. It was these nether regions of the capacious venue that were most heavily trafficked by attendees.

The biggest reason the show is so well attended? To see what all these players of differing stripes had been up to over the last year. Operators showed up to take a look at the ways in which they could improve the casino floor. Every vendor I asked could boast a fair that had wildly exceeded their expectations. The co-CEO of data company OPTX told me how it had gone at the end of the first day. Her response was telling: “If the show ended right now, we would regard it as a fabulous success.”

As a journalist, one of the great opportunities presented at G2E is the ability to speak with industry leaders and get a sense of where things are going in the next year. On the tip of everyone’s tongue (not just at the event but across the country) are the economic headwinds that might lead to a 2023 recession. I had the opportunity to speak to Bally’s Corporation chairman and financial whiz Soo Kim about the matter: “I think it’s a tale of two cities. Obviously, Wall Street is basically shut down. Equity markets are horrible and there’s no lending. Treasuries are down 15% for the year, and that’s pretty brutal. So that’s one world. But the real world has almost record low unemployment. Everyone has got jobs. We still can’t staff all positions.  I think that’s what’s causing the wage inflation and the price pressure. I think what the Fed is trying to do now is the right move: to slow things down... I just don’t think that will be a 2008, 2002 style recession.” He would go on to note that Vegas is doing as well as it ever has, even if the rise in gas prices is putting a dent in casino traffic on the casino floor.

Elsewhere, especially in the keynote addresses and other ancillary events, company leaders noted the stark disparity between record profits occurring simultaneously with plummeting share prices, indicative of this bizarre disjunct in the economy. At one event, IGT CEO Vince Sadusky noted that while profits are as high as ever, shares have gone down 37% over the last year. He went on: “There’s clearly a lot of uncertainty in the global marketplace right now. The great thing is we’re achieving our numbers. We have great strength in each of our consumers, and so far we’re not seeing any deterioration in the consumer."

The ill winds on the horizon did not seem to dampen anyone’s mood on the floor. How could they if profits remain at a high across nearly the entire industry?

Bill Miller, President and CEO of the American Gaming Association (which, in concert with RX produced the event) had the following to say in his exclusive interview to us: “This is the global gaming center of the world, and if you want to see what’s new and exciting in the gaming industry, this is the where you come. We’ve seen extraordinary participation from the exhibitors and from the buyers. Whether you are a manufacturer or a purchaser, a casino, this is the place where you want to see the latest and greatest in new technology and new games.”

With another G2E done, things keep looking up for this growing industry! 

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