July 22, 2021 Casino, Tribal, Land-Based

NIGA returns with big crowds, optimism abound

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The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) opened its tradeshow floor Wednesday to thousands of visitors who packed into the brand new Caesars Forum Convention Center in Las Vegas.

The four-day NIGA Tradeshow and Convention marks the first major U.S. gaming convention since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tribal leaders and casino executives were eager to return to face-to-face interactions after missing out on such opportunities over the last year and a half.

“For us, it’s sort of a coming out party,” said Sony Syamala, Vice President Commercial Strategy Game Sales at Aristocrat. “Since last G2E in 2019 we haven’t had any show. This is something which we are always proud of.”

Gaming, like every industry, found ways to adapt during the pandemic like turning to online meetings and remote work.

Though digital work has done wonders in keeping companies connected, it can’t replicate the interpersonal relationships that take place at conventions such as NIGA, says Scott Walker, president of cashless payments solutions provider Flexia Payments.

“It’s really wonderful to see everybody back here exchanging ideas, talking about systems, talking about new initiatives,” said Walker. “Particularly about how the different things that have to happen now that Covid has hit our country and how it’s affected everybody. We think we’re at the forefront of that by providing a cashless solution in this industry.”

The return of NIGA is especially significant for tribal communities who depend greatly on gaming but were unable to hold face-to-face meetings with suppliers and manufacturers.

Several attendees told Gaming America that tribes entered the tradeshow eager to acquire new technology and services, making it a strong a buyer’s market.

“It’s very important as a manufacturer to support the Native American community,” said Kelcey Allison, Senior Vice President at Empire Technological Group. “I think those that didn’t show up was a pretty big swing and a miss for them. More importantly for us and the people that participated, phenomenal turnout.

“Even with Covid and the Delta variant coming back, it’s exceeded my expectations. We thought people would not show up, that there’d be a couple hundred people, but it’s in the thousands.”

NIGA concludes Thursday. The tradeshow floor is open 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. PST.

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