Even though the gambling industry still suffered the effects of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic throughout 2021, in many ways, the year offered a slight return to normalcy in certain specific regards. In-person events, which were systematically canceled in 2020, came back in the now-closing year, although mostly in a hybrid manner, combining the opportunities only offered by face-to-face meetings with the convenience online activities present to international guests.
Among the industry summits returning as in-person events in 2021 was the prestigious Global Gaming Expo (G2E). Held from Oct. 4-7, at the Venetian Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, the iconic trade event held its first face-to-face show after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. During the four days it lasted, G2E gathered more than 13,000 global gaming professionals, including exhibitors, buyers and media from around the world.
"Bringing together thousands of professionals isn't an easy feat in a normal year, let alone in today's challenging environment, but we are so proud that the Global Gaming Expo was one of the first tradeshows to safely return to Las Vegas," reflects on the 2021 edition Meredith Pallante, American Gaming Association (AGA)'s Vice President, Global Events, in an interview with Yogonet.
AGA, along with Reed Exhibitions, is in charge of curating and organizing the annual expo, which offers the latest novelties in the gaming industry. Business appointments, product displays, keynotes and educational activities are all held during the days G2E takes over Las Vegas, and 2021 was no exception: the show was the largest in-person global gaming event since the pandemic's start, with 233 exhibitors.
"The gaming industry and Las Vegas needed it, especially after the most challenging time in our industry's history," says Pallante. "We found our attendees truly wanted to be in Las Vegas for the in-person experience."
While online gathering offers its own set of advantages, allowing for guests to tune in from all over the world and to record keynotes and other activities held via the Internet, some things are best discussed in-person. "Everyone was eager to reconnect with each other and conduct business you simply can't do over Zoom," the AGA representative states.
But G2E's return to Las Vegas was not only necessary for those seeking to reconnect with the sector on a more personal level. It was also a much-needed opportunity to tackle and discuss the latest gaming innovations and industry issues -keynotes covered pressing topics such as inclusion, cashless wagering and the expansion of sports betting- in a year that, despite the pressures brought by the pandemic, still allowed for plenty of business to happen.
"2021 is now gaming's best performing year ever and you could see the innovation that is fueling our growth on display at G2E 2021," AGA's VP Global Events tells Yogonet. "The expo floor brought to life the new technology driving traditional gaming while introducing new products supporting the expansion of sports betting and iGaming. This year has been remarkable for our industry and G2E is no exception."
With the bar set high by the 2021 edition, G2E's upcoming trade show in Vegas, confirmed to be held on October 10-13, will be tasked with providing a platform for all the latest industry developments taking place in an ever-changing landscape. This is no easy feat, but the event's organizers are up to the task.
"G2E serves as a platform and destination to convene, identify, and discuss the trends and issues driving the industry," explains Pallante. And what are some of those trends? "Sports betting, iGaming and digital payments have all seen tremendous growth during the pandemic and we expect they will continue to be hot topics into 2022," she predicts.
But success in the industry also relies on looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve and provide added value to consumers. In that sense, a few trends could prove to become essential additions to product offerings in the near future. "We also are looking at what's next...," says Pallante. "For example, how do cryptocurrency or esports fit into the equation?"
These new technologies and developments, of course, also imply a new set of discussions to be had in terms of player protection, sustainable growth and compliance. As the landscape changes, so do the requirements and roles gaming operators and businesses must fulfill.
"There's also an important discussion happening across the industry around responsibility and growing a sustainable market that will feature prominently in what we do both at the AGA and through G2E in 2022," confirms the executive. "The past few weeks have shown us we haven't reached the end of the pandemic yet and that it's important our industry and G2E remain nimble."
While October 2022 feels like decades into the future, especially given how the industry has now adapted to a more short-term-oriented way of thinking amid the uncertainty experienced these last two years, the AGA looks forward to welcoming back guests and exhibitors in the upcoming edition.
"We are excited to return to Las Vegas from Oct. 10-13 for G2E 2022," says Pallante. "I know I'm hopeful about welcoming more of our U.S. stakeholders and international audience in 2022."
Will this imply leaving behind the opportunities brought by the Internet to the industry? Certainly not, according to the VP of Global Events. "We are also doubling down on our year-round content through G2E Digital," she states. "This platform keeps the industry connected, provides unique educational opportunities, and helps set the stage for when we convene in Las Vegas. It's going to be an exciting year for G2E!"