LAS VEGAS - They brought in celebrities, rolled out hundreds of penny
slots, unveiled a giant Wheel of Fortune machine and even dished out free
food samples, wine and beer. There was also more than 140 sessions to give
conference attendees practical ideas to enhance their gaming operations and
keep ahead of emerging trends within the industry.
This year's Global Gaming Expo (G2E), held at the Las Vegas Convention
Center Oct. 5 - 7, was the biggest yet with more than 26,000 attendees, 700
exhibitors including 106 international booths spread across a sprawling
255,000 square foot exhibition floor. Since making its debut in 2001, the
American Gaming Association sponsored trade show "by the industry and for
the industry" has become the world's top gaming-entertainment expo
witnessed by exhibitors from 26 countries this year.
And the influence of gaming in Indian country is attracting more attention
as well. Thousands of individuals representing American Indian casinos
attended the show and more than a dozen conference sessions were dedicated
solely to issues impacting tribal gaming including casino expansion in
California, sovereignty, taxes and government controls.
A signature series called "Leading by Example: A Native American Tribal
Leaders Roundtable", added this year by G2E officials, was a huge hit
playing to a standing room only crowd on the show's final day. Scanning the
room moderator Ernie Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming
Association remarked, "Wow, I guess we're going to need a bigger space next
During the "State of the Industry" session CNN moderator Larry King asked
the panel of casino executives what impact increased Indian gaming was
having on Las Vegas and the industry as a whole, to which Terry Lanni,
chairman and CEO of MGM Mirage replied, "I like competition. It makes us
better at what we do and it's great for the industry."
Stevens, who also sat on the "State of the Industry" panel, agreed. "We
actually promote the industry. People get a taste of it in our casinos and
they all want to come out here to Las Vegas."
One thing Lanni, Gary Loveman, president and CEO of Harrah's Entertainment
and AGA president and CEO Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., said could slow casino
expansion in the U.S. are high operating taxes in some states. A concern
echoed in Indian country as well. Tribes did win a victory during the week
of G2E when supporters of Proposition 68, a California ballot initiative to
end the state's Indian tribes' monopoly on slot machines and force tribes
to pay 25 percent of their earnings to local governments, announced they
would no longer advertise and fight for the measure, although it remains on
the November ballot.
On the exhibition floor the main themes were pennies and celebrities.
Companies like Aristocrat Technologies, Bally Gaming, WMS Industries and
International Game Technologies rolled out hundreds of new slot themes and
low-denomination games as industry officials see the trend developing for
lower-risk, higher reward games.
Clint Eastwood, Pamela Anderson, Drew Carey, Ann Margaret, Paul Rodriguez
and even the Chippendales made appearances to promote the various games
bearing their likeness.
There were also plenty of exhibitors and game makers catering strictly to
Indian country. The Security and Surveillance Pavilion, the Bingo Pavilion
and the Design & Decor Pavilion each had numerous vendors trying to capture
the eye of American Indian casino execs. Several architectural firms
specific to the Indian market touted their designs and other companies
pitched interior lighting, signage, ergonomically designed, swivel chairs
and ticket-in ticket-out technology.
But attracting the most buzz this year was the newly added 7,000 square
foot culinary marketplace dubbed F&B at G2E. As the restaurant business
explodes into the casino industry it was only logical to devote some space
to it. There were food giveaways, wine and champagne tasting, a culinary
demo from Chef Todd English, creator of the Olives restaurants, a drink
mixing seminar and the Mohegan Sun Oyster Open - where the country's
fastest oyster shuckers competed for prizes.
And did you hear about that massive wedding cake? The Mohegan Sun pastry
chef who created the 17 foot tall, 15,032 pound sugary masterpiece, Lynn
Mansel was on hand to detail how his team of 57 chefs built the giant cake.
Mansel, the "Michelangelo of batters and buttercream," whipped up the seven
tier wedding cake back in February for the New England Bridal Showcase.
Mansel didn't recreate the Guinness record cake at G2E, but he did whip up
the bottom layer for people to sample.
G2E returns to the Las Vegas Convention Center Sept. 13 - 15, 2005.