G2E 2023 Review: Part One

November 22, 2023

Gaming America reflects on a busy visit to Las Vegas, as the Venetian Convention Center played host to G2E 2023.

The 2023 edition of Las Vegas’ annual Global Gaming Expo – known as G2E – is in the books and once again, the convention lived up to its billing as one of the premiere places for industry leaders to gather and trade ideas. The biggest takeaway from G2E this year was just the overall sense of optimism that permeated both the exhibit floor. The various panels, meanwhile, tackled topics from sports betting to women in the industry and Tribal gaming concerns.  

Not that long ago, the Covid-19 pandemic had the industry on the ropes – and attendance, for obvious reasons, was low. But not in 2023. More than 25,000 people attended G2E over its four days, which was just below its record of 27,000 in 2019 (G2E was canceled in 2020 and had only 13,000 attendees in 2021). More than 125 countries were represented at the conference and there were 368 exhibitors. In 2022, there were 350 and, of those exhibitors, 128 were new participating companies.  

This was not a conference for a struggling industry. This conference projected strength, economic power and high hopes for the future. Everywhere you turned, you saw smiles and the unmistakable energy of businesspeople working their craft. At the Global Gaming Awards for instance, which run separately from G2E but also at the Venetian, there was palpable excitement over who would take home the coveted trophies – and it must be said – confidence oozed off virtually everyone in attendance.  

The exhibit hall had its usual display of slick booths showcasing an incredibly wide array of products and services, from new gaming devices, to refined payment systems, to novel sports betting programs, to architectural services, to gambling flooring and to slot machine chairs.  

The list was practically endless, the displays were bright and colorful and in many cases enormous. The entrance to Aristocrat’s booth, for example, sported a giant – GIANT – football helmet, a nod to the company’s new partnership with the National Football League (NFL) to develop NFL-themed slot machines. Aristocrat, by the way, won three Global Gaming Awards, once again cementing itself as one of the most revered companies in the industry. But private businesses were hardly the only story at G2E this year. The Tribal gaming industry flexed its collective muscle at G2E, as well, solidifying for anyone who doubted that Tribes are already the next major player in the operator sector.  

Tribes, however, take a slightly different approach to gaming than others in the industry, as evidenced by a well-attended panel on Tuesday afternoon called 'Developing Tribal Gaming Workforce Training Programs.' The panelists, Sylvia Lopez of the Casino Del Sol Resort in Tucson, Arizona; Tammi Tiger of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas College of Hospitality; Deana Scott of Tribal Gaming and Hospitality Magazine; and Margo Gray of Magnum Marketing; all discussed how Tribes are focused on the long-term health of their communities and always looking toward the future.  

As such, they all stressed the importance of getting Tribal members employed at Tribal casinos, to provide jobs and long-term stability for their members. The repeated message was nobody will care as much about the health of a Tribal casino – and therefore the health of the Tribe – than Tribal members themselves.  

These Tribal-focused panels definitely provided a contrast to the other panels, which most certainly focused primarily on the bottom line and, in some cases, short-term gains. In the area of sports wagering, a panel on the topic discussed the slightly reduced expansion of legalization and how the American sports betting industry – for the interim, at least – will have to focus on building out existing markets and innovating.  

Big markets like California and Texas remain intriguing in the sports betting world, but it was generally agreed at G2E that nothing major is expected to be coming at either location. However, apparently there was some concern in among California gaming Tribes that news would spread at G2E of how the Golden State-based Pala Band of Mission Indians is eying a sports betting initiative for the 2024 ballot – reigniting a major ballot box fight that enveloped California in 2022.  

But that news never materialized, and while scattered websites reported that such an initiative was a possibility, it at least thus-far has not happened. In a testament to just how optimistic the conference was, little was said at G2E about either the looming culinary union strike in Las Vegas, or about the tremendous traffic disruptions that the forthcoming Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix is having on Sin City. Yes, those problems are real for the gaming industry and, yes, they were on executives’ minds. But they did little to dampen the mood of the conference, which pulsated with energy and excitement.  

One area that had a particularly high amount of energy was the exhibit floor’s new 'iGaming Zone', a special area for iGaming exhibitors, reflecting the growing importance of this gaming niche to the overall US gambling industry. That area of the exhibition hall was particularly impressive, with massive screens showing off all kinds of whiz-bang content.  

Speaking of massive screens and whiz-bang content, we would be remiss if we did not note that shortly before G2E the highly anticipated Sphere concert venue opened with a performance from the mega band, U2. The Sphere, as you might know, is physically connected to The Venetian, where G2E was held. So, it was not at all unusual at the conference this year to see people walking by in U2 t-shirts, with throngs of people gathering near the conference late in the afternoon in anticipation of another performance.  

On a more serious note, cyberattacks were among the topics of buzz at G2E as both MGM and Caesars faced ransomware incidents shortly before the conference. Speaking at the conference, MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle commented that the attack, which cost his company $100m in earnings, was “corporate terrorism at its finest.” This was perhaps the most sobering thing said at all of G2E, a brief acknowledgement of the serious problems facing the industry at an event that otherwise celebrated all that is going right with gaming in the Americas today.  

Other major executives who spoke at the conference included FanDuel CEO Amy Howe and DraftKings CEO Jason Robins (who sat together again for a keynote speech!); Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs; and Jette Nygaard-Andersen, CEO of Entain. Each, in their own way, projected a strength and stability of not only their particular enterprises, but of the sector as a whole.  

The crowds were so large, the energy was so strong, the messages were so positive – It was hard to believe that just three years ago G2E was entirely cancelled and that two years ago a mere percentage of attendees showed. Those were dark days for the gaming industry, when perhaps it looked as though the sector might falter. In truth, though, it was a dark time for all industries. And those black clouds seemed a distant memory at G2E 2023, where the overarching message was one of optimism for the future and confidence over the current state of things. It makes you wonder: what will 2024 have in store for us if the sector can completely rebound in just a few short years? Check back in a year and see. It should be quite interesting indeed. 


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