Exclusive interview with José Anibal Aguirre, founder of GAT Expo powered by FADJA

"In the midst of the crisis, Colombia is a leader in protecting the gaming industry"

"We are very happy to innovate with the experience of a virtual fair in Latin America,"
Reading time 3:30 min
In an exclusive interview with Yogonet Gaming News, the founder of the traditional Colombian fair spoke about the reasons that prompted its organizers to move the 2020 edition, the prospects for the market reopening, and the importance of the virtual event alternative as a new format that could stay beyond the crisis, depending on its results.

What were the main reasons that led you to change GAT Expo 2020 dates, considering the crisis affecting the sector?

Obviously, the main reason for postponing Gaming & Technology Week until next year is primarily due to the sanitary restrictions that we are addressing, and to the specific rules from the Colombian government regarding the ban on all kinds of events gathering people, which in our particular case, being an international fair, implies being even more cautious, since the date on which the air borders will reopen is uncertain. Knowing the crisis affecting the land-based gaming sector and Colombia's legal platforms due to the suspension of live sporting events and tournaments, it was imperative and timely to wait for current conditions to evolve and thus protect the prior investment of exhibitors and sponsors.

We want to inform our clients that the decision has been made to apply the amounts they already paid in their 2020 contracts to the 2021 event, thus safeguarding their interests. We also confirm that Gaming & Technology Expo will be held at the Cartagena de Indias Convention Center on April 28 and 29, 2021. The academic activities will take place from April 26. And in addition to this, we will have GAT Expo 2020 virtual edition.

What features will the virtual edition have? What kind of technology is involved, and how do you expect this event will unfold in July?

We are very happy to innovate with the experience of a virtual fair in Latin America. We are going to maximize an unprecedented potential of national and international business, generating qualified contacts between buyers and investors. It is the best way to unite gaming and technology, as it is reflected in the name of the fair, Gaming & Technology Expo. 

The virtual 3D platform will have a reception to guide the user, pavilions where exhibitors will be able to create their stands and showcase products, as well as an auditorium where the organization will offer interactive conferences and webinars. There will be text and video chat, and we will have the business card exchange service and an internal search engine based on keywords, in order to customize the experience according to the visitors' special interests. Each exhibitor will create its avatar and the specific information that will be presented at its stand. We will have a notice board for promotions, latest offers and news for each brand. We understand that the protocols for reopening casinos require changes and decisions regarding new machine acquisitions, remodeling of rooms and equipment, among others. This important topic, as well as the definition of which novel games can be offered and added to national platforms, will be focal points at the GAT Expo Virtual.

Do you think the launch of a virtual event will lead, in the future, to a new business and academy alternative for GAT powered by FADJA?

GAT Expo Virtual 2020 will not only be an alternative to do business in the region. It will also be about conferences and webinars, top-tier updates on the situation land-based casinos are going through, and analysis of the future of the gaming industry across its several verticals, obviously at this time fully focused on digital. Therefore we will have Masterclass with Clarion Gaming's TGA in Spanish, and Team Seven, the company of Ana María Padrós, will lead the academic component of the virtual expo with their contributions and insights about the Latin American market. If we do well, as we hope, the virtual fair could be incorporated as the 3A Productions digital event in the second half of each year.

What was the early feedback you received from Colombian exhibitors, associations and operators regarding the change of dates?

The decision to move GAT Expo Gaming Week to April 2021 has been received in a very positive way at all national levels: authorities, trade bodies and operators. Internationally, exhibitors were asking us to postpone the fair to next year, due to the severity of the pandemic, especially in Europe. Colombia has managed the emergency properly and our numbers are relatively low in cases and deaths, and even the economy has begun to open up little by little.

How do you expect the reopening of the Colombian market will unfold, considering the first steps announced days ago by Coljuegos?

I believe that Colombia's leadership is very clear in terms of regulatory management; the protection of the gambling industry as a supply of resources has taken a center stage in the Ministry of Health decrees and resolutions issued by the Ministry of Finance, Coljuegos and the Presidency of the Republic. Lotteries, Baloto and Super Astro games have started to operate again at land-based venues. The Colombian people will be able to go out to gamble, according to their ID numbers, confirming a tradition based on trust generated by a fully regulated sector. The guidelines for opening casinos are not yet fully defined, but the bases are laid down in a previous decree.

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