IGA 2023 San Diego review: An exhibitor’s POV

May 18, 2023

Chris Wieners, Velvix MD, reviews April's Indian Gaming Association (IGA) tradeshow in California.

The recent IGA 2023 show held in San Diego, California, was another example of the post-Covid world returning to normal: a busy tradeshow floor, Tribal representation from across the US and excited operators ready to purchase – I think one can truly say “we’re back!” With all of the excitement that came with the show's return to San Diego, there were definitely some unique aspects worth pointing out, which showcase both the current state of affairs for Tribal gaming operators and a glimpse into what the future may hold – good and bad. Here are some of my observations as an exhibitor who walked the floor and connected with clients, industry partners and competitors.

Changing tides – the move to straight purchase of gaming equipment

While this may not be specific to Tribal gaming, the reliance on daily fees and revenue share is definitely shifting. With the majority of operators experiencing an amazing two-year run, we are witnessing a shift from interest in a long-term lease and rev-share deals to more straight purchase requests. To be candid, this makes it significantly harder for both newer and smaller manufacturers, who must truly prove their worth (and their longevity) to be rightfully considered for placement. It's not an impossible task, but definitely more difficult if you’re new to the market.

Innovation – more can be done for Tribal operators

Something that could further liven up IGA, and interest in it, are the innovations showcased across the tradeshow floor. It’s no secret that most major manufacturers are ‘saving up’ for their big product launches at G2E. While not true for all, there is definitely a lot to be said for scale (not only in regard to size) of the booths. Understandably it makes more financial sense for operators to go all out for G2E. However, I think there is something to be said for additional, unique innovations, offerings and on-floor events at IGA.

San Diego vs. Anaheim – who does it better?

One of the most contested announcements was that of the movement back to Anaheim for IGA 2024. I heard considerably mixed messages from both operators and manufacturers. In some cases, Anaheim is an easier location to get to. It does offer a considerable infrastructure when it comes to tourism and conferences. However, I believe the general feeling was that San Diego, when available, makes for a much better conference. Regardless of your preference in baseball teams, San Diego's location, proximity to the airport and hotels, as well as overall vibe, seem to put the city ahead.

Game design – times are changing

Anecdotally, there were some interesting changes happening in game design, which were present at various slot manufacturers across the board. Our team checked out various competitors during the event and noticed a few key trends including: Significantly more multi-feature games; Cash on reels (i.e. hold and re-spin) is still hot; Significantly more randomized triggers vs. the previous 3 Scatter (landing) trigger features.

Representing an operator that is 100% focused on Tribal gaming operators in the USA, I can safely say that IGA is our group’s most important show of the year. While it may not have the scale of G2E, its pure focus on Tribal gaming allows manufacturers and service providers the ability to connect with Tribal operators in a way that's not really possible at some of the larger shows. The integration of the IGA board meeting, the attendance by national Tribal councils and a complete focus on the issues facing the Tribal gaming industry make this a show that only has room to grow. I believe it's imperative for IGA (as an association) to focus on growth and representation, as well as to leverage the resources of its partners (think, non-native organizations) to help further build the strength of the organization, and ultimately, the annual trade show at large. I, for one, am excited about what the next five years hold in store for Tribal properties across the US and to be part of it myself.


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