The first two days featured dozens of events on topics such as sports betting, online gambling, post-pandemic recovery and Tribal-State compacting, while the latter two days featured a sprawling tradeshow covering 300,000 sq. feet of ballroom space at the new Caesars Forum Convention Center.
NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr. said, “We are leaving Las Vegas very energized and excited. To see our tribal gaming family come together again after so long was phenomenal.” He added, “Indian gaming showed up, rolled up our sleeves, and did the work united in our efforts to bring our industry back after the pandemic stopped the world in its tracks.”
Entering the week, there was concern that a recent rise in Covid-19 cases locally and nationally would limit the number of attendees. While those in attendance were aware and cautious of the latest spike in cases, the tradeshow and convention was a warm welcome from the isolation caused by the pandemic.
Dave Kubajak, SVP Sales, Marketing and Operations at electronics manufacturer JCM Global, said, “Everybody in the industry is ready to get back together and has wanted to get back together to go through that healing process inside the pandemic. NIGA kind of became that line in the sand before G2E to say, we can still do something that involves the First Nations and tribes and pulls everybody together and says, gaming is back, everything is going to be good.”
The ability to interact face-to-face with customers and competitors alike was invaluable for those who attended. Though the pandemic led the gaming industry to adopt virtual business strategies, there is nothing like seeing people in person, said Kathleen McLaughlin, VP of Marketing North America at Novomatic.
“Everyone in the industry who I’ve talked to in the industry just misses the connection,” she said. “We’re a very large industry that’s actually very small. People know everyone. Three or four people have told that it’s like having a reunion.”
Reconvening in person also allowed customers to see up close what they were buying rather than resorting to digital images or video calls.
For slot games provider Novomatic, the ability to show off its new packaging designs in-person was all-important.
“I always go for the ‘holy crap’ factor,” said McLaughlin. “That’s what I’m looking for. We try really hard to make things visually interesting.”
She added, “You look at all of the things that are on this floor that have happened during Covid, it’s kind of cool. Some people used it to their advantage and developed even more things than they probably would have. They used that downtime to do it. I think the products that are being shown, it’s incredible the depth and breadth of products that are here coming out of a pandemic.”
For manufacturer Incredible Technologies, NIGA presented the perfect timing to show off its Class II line, which are developed specifically for tribal casinos.
IT President of Gaming Dan Schrementi said, “Starting out with tribal for us as the first show back was important for us mainly because Class II was one of the most important things we’ve been working on over the Covid shutdown. The pandemic has forced us all to work a little harder to be better at our jobs. I think you’re going to see manufacturers in the casino space bring better products and bigger ideas for the industry.”