Gaming show finds a new home

Over the course of a week, Las Vegas hosts conventions and trade expos for industries from baking to sheet metal. So it’s not surprising that the world’s premier casino industry trade show, the Global Gaming Expo, is held here each fall. A recently announced change of venue for the convention highlights the important role the meeting plays in the national casino landscape.

Since its inaugural meeting in 2001, the Global Gaming Expo has been held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. With more than 26,000 attendees each year, it’s a massive show; it takes hours just to walk the exhibit floor. In addition to the exhibitors, there is a 14-track program with sessions on everything from human resources to casino surveillance.

The conference is organized by the American Gaming Association, the industry’s chief national trade group, and Reed Exhibitions, an international organizer. As American Gaming Association president Frank Fahrenkopf says, G2E is “the only international event developed by the industry, for the industry.”

So the recent announcement that G2E, starting next year, will be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center was a bit of a shake-up, and also big news.

The move didn’t come out of any dissatisfaction with the Las Vegas Convention Center—both Reed and the AGA have praised the convention center’s commitment to the event for the past decade. It was, instead, a matter of timing.

In its first years, G2E was held in September and October. But in 2006, the show moved to November to fill the hole that COMDEX left in the wake of its demise. The result was plenty of room, but a bit of a tight fit for both exhibitors and buyers.

“It worked well for a few years,” says Courtney Muller, group vice president at Reed, “but then we started hearing that it was too late in the buying cycle. Most of the buyers preferred an event sooner in the year.”

In addition, there were international complications.

“November’s also very close to the London conference,” Muller says, referring to the International Casino Exhibition, another global trade show. “We don’t want our customers to feel squeezed, so that’s another aspect we took into account.”

The decision to move to October meant a change of locations was inevitable; the convention center’s already booked for that week. Luckily, there’s more than one group in Las Vegas capable of hosting such a large convention.

“We went to Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International and asked what they could do,” Muller says. “In the end, the Sands Expo Center had the dates we needed.”

Moving to the Sands, which is connected to the Venetian, will provide ancillary benefits. It makes sense to host a casino trade show in an actual casino. That might sound like no big deal, but many international attendees don’t get too many chances to see Las Vegas casinos, and spending more time in one may help them come away with a better handle on the town.

Also, G2E Asia, which is held in May/June, is at the Venetian Macau, and there are some synergies created by having the same organizer working with the same host company for both events.

“By having both shows in our properties in the U.S. and in Asia, we are able to ‘cross pollinate,’” says Eric Bello, vice president of sales for Las Vegas Sands. “Comfort with exhibiting at one show leads to an ease of testing the other market, particularly for the smaller vendors. This allows them to grow their market, and us to capture their stay.”

In the end, change may be a good thing. Muller is looking forward to being able to rebuild the expo floorplan from the ground up. “It’s a good opportunity to start fresh,” she says.

Yet there’s plenty to be excited about this November, as G2E meets for the final time at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For the first time there is an iGaming conference, dealing with cutting-edge remote gambling issues, and new concepts such as generational marketing are being discussed.

There’s also the Ultra Lounge Uniform Fashion Show, sponsored by apparel and products maker Cintas. It’s like Project Runway meets a restaurant trade show, and according to Muller is “a real crowd-pleaser.”

With casinos in need of new ideas, the Global Gaming Expo will continue to be a date that gaming industry folks circle on their calendars—no matter where it is held.