Gaming Industry Looks to the Future

G2E’s “State of the Industry” panel featured moderator John Ralston and guests Dick Haddrill, Patti Hart, Michael Leven, Walter Bugno, Brian Gamache and Jim Murren.
Photo by Diane Taylor

When a group of industry leaders gathered for a panel discussion on “State of the Industry” at last week’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E), the hour-long program was not only a learning experience but a fascinating introduction to a G2E visit.

On the panel, Jim Murran, Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, said the current year and next year in Las Vegas look solid from a business perspective, but Michael Leven, President & COO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., warned that because the gaming industry depends on disposable income, and because the world economy has many uncertain aspects, a prediction about the industry in five years “is just a roll of the dice.”

Would on-line gaming save the day? Not necessarily. The panel was clear that online poker, the foot-in-the-door game for online gaming in the U.S., would not be particularly profitable. Patti Hart, CEO of International Game Technology (IGT), called poker a “loss leader”. Competition would be fierce and Walter Bugno, President & CEO of Spielo International, noted that customer loyalty in an online environment is very tricky. “Everything can change with just a click of a finger.”

Leven noted that his boss, Sheldon Adelson, agrees that competition would be a big issue with regard to online gaming and fears that the online product can’t be regulated in terms of underage players. But Brian Gamache, President & CEO of WMS Industries, Inc., said that online gaming in Great Britain has not been troubled with underage gambling. He said the player base can be controlled.

Sadly, said Hart, legislators don’t have the capacity to incorporate new data into their decision making, so the old battles rage on.

Many of the panelists agreed that once online poker is approved, other games will inevitably follow, and the profits will come with the other games.

Providing a group gambling experience, the Amazon fishing game at G2E attracted a large audience.
Photo by Diane Taylor

How to keep online gaming from taking over the gaming market? The panelists agreed that gaming destinations must remain vital and continue to provide the kind of great customer experience that isn’t available at home. Dick Haddill, CEO & Director of Bally Technologies, Inc., talked about the importance of “personalized trigger-based marketing” in gaming’s future.

“For example,” said Murren, “if a player goes to the buffet at 7 a.m. on Monday, but hasn’t returned by 9 a.m. on Tuesday, an email with a special offer can be sent just to that customer to entice him back for a meal on Tuesday.”

Local TV host John Ralston led the discussion and the audience paid close attention. Next to me in the audience was Bobby Siller, former FBI agent including a three-year assignment as Agent-in-Charge of the FBI Las Vegas Division. He is also a former member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board and current member of the Board of WMS Industries, Inc. Siller turned to me as we left and said, “Great panel discussion, yes?!”

WMS introduced the KISS machine at G2E.
Photo by Diane Taylor

The trade show portion of G2E, seen in the accompanying video, featured exhibits from more than 410 exhibitors. From mints to machines and locks to wines, the show floor was packed with product. The folks from Aristocrat Technologies had a Superman costume worn by Christopher Reeve as part of their exhibit. A Bytox exhibit featured a free hangover patch. Lady dealers that looked real, but were just holograms, were also in attendance.

Scentair was on hand to provide information on having a casino or hotel greet guests with a whiff of something other than stale air, and exhibits invited attendees to win an iPad 3 or have a photo with a showgirl. Tweets from G2E were available for online viewing as were videos taken at the show each day. One of the videos with Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley of KISS posed the question, “What’s your favorite thing to do in Las Vegas? Gene Simmons looked stunned at the question and said the purpose of his visit was not to talk of Las Vegas, but to promote the new KISS slot machine which “gives you the KISS experience in a gaming atmosphere”.

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