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G2E attendance expected to continue rebounding after pandemic disruption

If there’s an upside to the pandemic disrupting the Global Gaming Expo for the last two years, it’s that 2022’s attendees hit the trade show floor Tuesday zealously.

Exhibits at the largest meeting of gaming industry members opened Tuesday morning at The Venetian Expo, after a keynote address by American Gaming Association CEO Bill Miller, whose organization sponsors the convention.

Attendees remarked about the stark comparison to previous years. The event event was held virtually in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and 2021’s show brought 13,000 people. Past shows brought about 27,000.

The organizers — and exhibitors — are hoping for that pre-pandemic level of attendance or close to it this year. AGA declined to estimate how many conventioneers will be on site this week before its official total publishes, although early estimates on the show’s website suggested at least 18,000 were expected.

Exhibitors said the energy level is noticeable.

“There was a really neat, genuine excitement leading up to it,” said Rob Ziems, president of Aruze Gaming America. “I came in just after opening. It was around 11 (am), but there was a line of hundreds or thousands of people waiting to register. I thought nobody would be inside yet.”

It’s great news for the Las Vegas-based slot machine manufacturer. Ziems said his team was excited to show off two years’ worth of innovation to customers who may not have attended recent shows. The company’s flagship offerings are slot machines with an “active play” style such as the Go Go Claw — which won the Global Gaming Awards’ top product innovation award Monday — and the newly unveiled Rock Paper Scissors slot machine.

“What I think is really special about it is that you’re physically involved in the game,” he said. “On a slot machine when you hit the button, it’s done. The computer knows the results. That’s not what people are paying for. What we sell is entertainment.”

The floor was filled with innovations like Aruze’s gamified slot machines, improved seating, cashless casino solutions and more efficient hospitality booking engines. Still others featured tried-and-true product styles, such as the unveiling of London-based IGT’s “Let’s Make a Deal” video slots based on the game show of the same name.

Others applauded the return of a large, midweek convention. Derek Stevens, owner of downtown Las Vegas’ Circa Resort and Casino, said additional visitation is encouraging to the Vegas market.

“You can feel it right on our property last night,” Stevens said of the show. “We had on Monday Night Football, the sportsbook was packed, the Legacy Club was packed, Stadium Swim was good. It’s great to see all this additional visitation. Obviously, the conference is oriented around our industry, but it’s beyond just our industry and that’s great to see.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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