The Sweet Scent of the Global Gaming Expo

Randy Goldbaum made the trek to Las Vegas all the way from Hicksville, N.Y., to present his company’s products for the first time at the Global Gaming Expo. Throughout the Sands Expo Center, others are pitching hand sanitizers, slot chairs, executive education.

Goldbaum’s selling candy.

Two executives from a small casino stop by his booth, and in a rapid-fire Long Island-inflected pitch, Goldbaum explains the benefits of partnering with a high-quality specialty confections distributor. They take his card and a handful of Jelly Bellies. This is popular stuff.

Goldbaum rolled the dice on the expo this year because his company, Nassau Candy, has seen Las Vegas business spike recently thanks to the growth of high-end candy retailers on the Strip (think Sugar Factory). High-end sweets fill multiple niches, from retail centers to custom confections like short-run stamped logo chocolates for trade shows. “We’ve been talking to many resorts,” Goldbaum says. “The stores I service are the Tao and Lavo of the candy world.” Goldbaum’s plans are an indicator that the gaming world, more than ever before, is about much more than gaming. The Global Gaming Expo is full of such signs.

A few steps from Goldbaum’s booth, a model in short-shorts is making a snow angel in the confetti drift at Streamer Effects International’s booth. That company is demonstrating its Confetti Max, an industrial-strength confetti blower. They’re popular at concerts, nightclubs, and bars. They’ve been onstage with Madonna. And, naturally, there’s a casino market for them.

Farther down, Jeff Sneed is presiding over the most fragrant booth in town: His company, Scent Air, provides custom fragrances for about 170 casinos worldwide, including such Las Vegas standouts as the Cosmopolitan, all the CityCenter properties, the Hard Rock Hotel, and the uncrowned scent champ, M Resort. He’s got a machine that will replicate the scent of any of his Las Vegas casinos on demand.

Though the company’s been in Las Vegas for years, this is its first time at the expo. In a sign of the new casino world order, Scent Air first exhibited at Global Gaming Expo Asia, held in Macau in May, before deciding to show in Las Vegas in order to “expand [their] brand recognition.” It’s working. People are waiting in line to sniff their favorite casinos.

Purveyors to the gaming industry have three chances a year to show off their wares: the two Global Gaming Expos and London’s International Casino Exhibition. For those after the American market, the Las Vegas expo is their big shot; if they don’t sell it here, it might remain unsold.

That’s why, from the obvious (cash-sorting devices) to the whimsical (a product billed as “zero gravity fruit”), if a casino could possibly want to buy it, someone was selling it.

Yet this year there’s a story behind the story: the big move from the Las Vegas Convention Center, the expo’s home since its 2001 birth, to the Sands Expo Center. According to American Gaming Association president and CEO Frank Fahrenkopf, it wasn’t any dissatisfaction with the folks on Paradise Road that prompted the move, but the need to situate the show midway between May’s Asia expo and January’s ICE in London.

Fahrenkopf is proud of the show’s growth, but is confident that G2E will never abandon its roots. In recent years, he says, “the floor has changed dramatically. There’s more of an iGaming presence this time, but the major part is still the manufacturers, who sell products our operators use. Europe has gone great guns for iGaming, and we’re exploring it as well, but we know our base, and we’ll service that base.”