Tales from the Global Gaming Expo

The Global Gaming Expo, gambling’s biggest trade show, has come and gone, with plenty of discussions and deals in the conference rooms and exposition halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. This year it proved, despite the beating that Las Vegas has taken in the past few years, it is still a city where people come to talk casinos—and to get a peek at the future of the industry.

It’s a big show, with more than 26,000 attendees. The conference program, with more than 430 speakers spread across 130 sessions, is big on ideas, but the real action of the show takes place on the expo floor.

Here, you’ll find more than 250,000 square feet of exhibit booths, in which salespeople tout the benefits of every product from flooring to ticket-recycling machines. The slot manufacturers take up most of the space in the central area of the hall, and with hundreds of slots on demo mode they get the most attention, too. But there are plenty of other exhibitors here, although you might need a scorecard to tell them apart. You could be forgiven if you mixed up Micro Gaming Technologies, Micro-Star International, MicroFirst, Micros Systems and MicroStrategy.

The exhibitors are a diverse lot, as casino suppliers (and potential casino suppliers) go. For every heavyweight such as Global Cash Access or International Game Technology with a massive spread on the expo floor and private areas for salespeople and buyers to work out deals, there are smaller, almost mom-and-pop operations. The developer of Die Rich Craps, Ken Coleman, is one of them, demoing the game himself in his booth.

The big exhibitors might be the heart of G2E, but the one- and two-person setups valiantly selling everything from chip-cleaning machines to name badges might be its soul.

Almost one-sixth of the exhibitors came from countries outside the United States, and an increasing number of the attendees were from overseas, giving the show a more international flavor than ever.

One company that came to G2E for the first time had a long and tricky journey. Numbers Play Hungary, founded last year, is a Budapest-based company that’s put together a new game called Kabala 6. Available across several platforms, including a lottery draw, a mobile gaming application and a slot machine terminal, the game requires no knowledge of, and has no real reference to, the ancient system of Jewish mysticism for which it is named. Rather, it’s an evocation of both “luck” and “superstition,” according to the company. And, like other new game developers, NPH is going to need a good run of luck to get its game into a casino.

Like other exhibitors, NPH is here because it has hope; hope that if the right casino manager sees its game, it will make a sale. Five officers and employees of the company flew out to Las Vegas with their booth packed in their personal luggage, to cut down on shipping costs.

Travel hiccups separated the group from their luggage, and a missed connecting flight temporarily stranded two of their number in Detroit. Reunited with their luggage two days later, the NPH five somehow got their booth assembled just in time to meet potential buyers on Tuesday. Luck might have had something to do with it.

Communications manager Andrea Szabados revealed that NPH’s trip to Las Vegas had truly global roots.

“We were at G2E Asia [a sister tradeshow held in Macau] and decided that, if we wanted to make an impact, we had to be present in Las Vegas. When you think of gambling, you think of Las Vegas.”

She’s also hopeful that, should the U.S. Congress permit Internet gaming, Kabala 6, which has a robust online and mobile platform, will be a popular choice for casinos and lotteries.

In Las Vegas for the first time, Szabados likes what she sees. “It’s incredible,” she says of her stay. “I love the openness. Everyone smiles at you. And it’s such a lively environment, with the music, the sounds, the sights.”

Ironically, some of the best contacts NPH made during the show were with its nearby neighbors. Casino managers from Hungary and Slovenia expressed interest in Kabala 6. The game was born in their backyard, but they had to come to Las Vegas to see it for the first time.

“Yes,” sales manager Eszter Szeremi says, “it’s been a worthwhile trip.” And, it’s one that shows that Las Vegas is still relevant in an increasingly global business scene.

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