Interview with José Aníbal Aguirre, organizer of GAT Expo

"There is much anxiety for sharing innovation and looking at the future positively"

José Aníbal Aguirre, organizer of GAT Expo 2021.
Reading time 5:08 min
This week, the city of Cartagena de Indias will be the epicenter of the first in-person regional meeting of the gaming industry, the GAT Expo starting on Thursday. Yogonet agreed to a talk with José Aníbal Aguirre, organizer of the event, and exclusively detailed the main attractions of this edition in Colombia.

What expectations do you, as organizers, have from the first post-pandemic in-person event to be held in Latin America?

We have high expectations, both for the next few days at the Cartagena event and for the remainder of the year and 2022.

It has been a challenge to overcome many difficulties brought upon by the pandemic, but we understood that this step had to be taken, given the empowering voices from companies with interests in the huge markets of this region.

There is much anxiety for sharing innovation and looking at the future positively, pointing to the growth of their companies. We are extremely excited about the in-person participation of regulators from Mexico and Colombia, who will share their vision of the future of gambling as a relevant economic factor for both countries.

What particularities will those who visit the expo find, considering the changes and adjustments that were necessary to carry out a new in-person event, after so many months without activity?

There was no in-person events activity certainly, but we didn't stop. We did GAT Virtual Expo on a platform with avatars, there was also a GAT Festival to close the year 2020. All this time we have been working in the preparation of GAT Expo 2021, implementing a different model of registration, design, and construction of stands with the help of City Group, a fundamental and strategic ally in this opportunity.

We will have a limited occupancy capacity within a rigorous concept in which the health and care of the attendees will be the main focus. Masks are mandatory in all areas, both outdoors and in the conference room, and we have all the permits from the Mayor's Office, in addition to meeting the protocols required by the Cartagena de Indias Convention Center, which isn't just any kind of fairground as it has international certifications and high professional standards. They are known as the leaders in the business meeting industry on the continent.

It is worth noting that vaccination in the country has been orderly and successful, and already covers more than 14 million people that have already received both doses. The Ministry of Health has announced that August will end with 35 million doses applied. We are in a good moment in epidemiological terms, with a substantial drop in cases as well as a drop of seriously ill patients.

In your opinion, which of the agenda items will stand out the most this week for GAT attendees?

We have a very attractive mixed cocktail: exhibition in stands and a complete academic agenda. The novelty of the exhibition is in an open-air plaza with incredible views. Homogeneous stands with ecological designs and complying with all biosafety protocols will operate from 5 in the afternoon. A central bar with an outstanding dome and lighting will be a meeting point for clients, partners, and friends. The San Francisco Esplanade will house the online gaming exhibitors, and the land-based exhibitors will be concentrated in the Barahona Great Hall, within the structure of the convention center.

How do you, as organizers think that the scenario changed during the pandemic for gambling operators in Colombia?

Let's say that obviously, the greatest weight of the crisis fell on the casinos and physical gambling halls, due to the restrictions on the public. All the rooms adapted their spaces for the new normalcy. Right now, the economy in Colombia is completely open and people have returned to their regular entertainment habits.

As for online gambling, its growth and development during the pandemic are astonishing all over the world. The phenomenon does not exempt Colombia and, of course, is reflected in the numerical difference between exhibitors of online betting and exhibitors of machines and roulette of traditional casino games.

What is the number of attendees that you expect, and do you think they will be mostly local, or do you expect executives from other regions of Latin America?

I love that question because when reviewing the database of records to attend both the exhibition and the congress, we find that executives from 30 countries will be in attendance, something that we did not expect because there is still fear about the health situation in the world.

The list includes Sweden, Mexico, Costa Rica, Latvia, Spain, Brazil, Malta, Argentina, Uruguay, Switzerland, Chile, Israel, Nigeria, Paraguay, Czech Republic, India, USA, Canada, Malaysia, Russia, Armenia, Panama, England, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Canada, Philippines, Italy, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Peru. In total there are 415 companies registered between guests and interested parties.

How many companies will be present, and do most of them correspond to the traditional game, or are there more companies related to online betting?

As sponsors, we highlight the attendance of Softgamings, BetPlay, Mobadoo, Golden Race, WorldMatch, Rivalo, and BtoBet. Digitain, EvenBet, Ezugi, Betandeal, Universal Soft, Jazz Gaming, Pragmatic Play, Betcris, PlayN'Go, Kiron Interactive, TVBet, Luckia Colombia, Apuesta Total, Oddin, Sportradar, Geekcity, Latam Café Rocks, and Always Games. There is also a very important space for slots and roulettes, which are debuted with their novelties WinSystems, Alfastreet, and Aruze.

What is the support you received from the Colombian unions, which historically accompanied the fairs in Bogotá and now will do so in Cartagena de Indias as well?

The unions have been a very important factor due to their constant work as spokespeople for the gaming industry before Coljuegos, the Ministry of Finance, and the media, always seeking economic reactivation and more guarantees for its operation in times of crisis. This work has kept the industry alive, and that favors us as organizers of the event that represents all the legal operators in the country.

Asojuegos, Cornazar, and Fecoljuegos will participate in the conferences with respective presentations. They will also have a stand to serve their affiliates. Camazar as a union that mainly groups operators on the Atlantic coast of Colombia has an exclusive exhibition area.

How important is the execution of CMAe for you, the first eSports and betting congress in the region that is carried out in conjunction with GAT?

The global impact of eSports and its regulation process in several countries, the need for the digital transformation of physical operators, and the opportunity that this circumstance offers to ensure the future and growth with new games from leading companies in traditional gaming led us to define the conceptual axis of the academic part of the event.

That's how, with the help of Ángel Beccassino, we conceived the image and the name CMAe and, when presenting the idea, we obtained an extraordinary reception from operators and associations to the point that we were able to bring a very important delegation from Mexico to Cartagena, headed by the Director of Games and Raffles, Maestra Alma Itzel De Lira Castillo, her advisory team, and by AIEJA, the largest association of permit holders in the Aztec country, we will also have a conference with Óscar Paredes, president of the Board of Directors of AIEJA, as speaker.

On Wednesday 18 CMAe is will be carried out under the direction and coordination of LMG, with a varied repertoire around the theme of Digital Transformation towards an Omnichannel Service. The conferences on Thursday, August 19, will focus on eSports.

What is GAT's post-fair GAT agenda like? Will you maintain parallel events under the GAT umbrella in other Colombian jurisdictions, to be held in the coming months?

Towards the end of September, we aspire to carry out a showroom in Bogotá for land-based operators. Likewise, we are planning an event in Punta Cana in November, and thus we will close 2021, the year of reencounter.

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