G2E Is Back, Masked, Vaxxed and Upbeat

Last year, the gaming industry had to settle for a virtual G2E. This year, although the world hasn’t quite returned to normal, the live event has returned, with masks and vaccine mandates.

G2E Is Back, Masked, Vaxxed and Upbeat

In October 2020, amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, organizers of the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) trade show had to pivot to a virtual format.

This October, happily, the 21st edition of G2E is live and face to face, October 4-7 at the Venetian Expo in Las Vegas. And though the celebration is dimmed somewhat by the delta variant and the return of some Covid precautions, the mood should be nothing but upbeat, according to Meredith Pallante, vice president of global events for the American Gaming Association (AGA), the show’s organizer.

“We are an industry that went from one of the worst periods in our history to what we’re now seeing, which is maybe one of the best ever,” Pallante said, just ahead of the event. “And I think we here at AGA, and everyone else, is excited to celebrate that. I do feel there is some pent-up demand just to get back in person, to reconnect to see each other.”

That optimism is reinforced by the revenue figures. According to the AGA, the first seven months of 2021 brought in commercial gaming revenue of $29.70 billion, nearly matching the $29.98 billion generated in all of 2020 and 17.8 percent ahead of the same period in 2019.

For a time, it was understood by attendees and vendors that the participants would have to mask up on the trade show floor. On August 31, G2E mandated that all visitors, exhibitors, media, speakers and AGA and RX staff provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination to enter.

The requirement is indicative of the challenges faced by operators, manufacturers and others, in every corner of the industry. Covid-19 has accelerated online betting and mobile sports betting, as well as touch-free and cashless technologies. And of course, U.S. states continue to roll out legal sports betting. In spite of the challenges, this is also a moment of rare opportunity.

“We’ve been thinking about this show and curating the content,” Pallante told CDC Gaming Reports. “We’re taking a step back and thinking about what just happened and talking to leaders in the industry about what they just went through.”

Keynote speakers at the event include Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen, MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle and Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox as well as AGA President and CEO Bill Miller; and Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. Korbi Carrison, event director of G2E for Reed Exhibitions, says there’s been little resistance to the vaccine mandate.

“It’s important for us to get our health and safety provisions absolutely as top-notch as they could be and that’s why we put it at the forefront,” Carrison said. “The attendees who are coming to G2E are the casino operators and many other gaming constituents who understand what it takes to make their venues safe. They have no problem with coming to G2E in that same manner.”

AGEM Executive Director Marcus Prater observed that last year’s virtual event was less than satisfying. “We lost a year of working together with the gaming industry. It’s time to open the doors of the show again and see if we can show off the new technology that people haven’t had a chance to see firsthand since 2019.”

The show will begin Monday with G2E Connects, a reception and kickoff event. “It’s important for us to be together,” Pallante said. “It’s important for us to convene and see each other and champion each other and hold each other up. Vegas is a very resilient town, a very special town, and we’re excited that it’s our home for this show, to open our doors again and welcome back those who have been coming for 20 years and those for whom it’s their first time.”

According to Forbes, for the first time an NFL owner will speak at the event, with Arizona Cardinals owner and president Michael Bidwill appearing as the final keynote speaker. He’ll sit down with Miller on Wednesday, October 6 to discuss the increasing intersection of legal sports betting and U.S. professional sports.

“The expansion of legal sports betting is deepening fan engagement and driving new business opportunities for sports leagues and teams,” said Miller. “I look forward to welcoming Michael to the G2E keynote stage to hear his unique perspective on the dynamic, evolving sports landscape.”

For a complete schedule of events, visit globalgamingexpo.com.