It took 720 days, American Gaming Association President Bill Miller noted on Tuesday, but the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) — the U.S. gaming industry’s largest event — is back.
Miller offered the opening keynote speech at the Venetian Resort Las Vegas (although the series of education panels began a day earlier), and he was followed by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and Rep. Dina Titus, who represents the city’s casino district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
And while mandatory mask-wearing and the absence of thousands of would-be international attendees was a reminder that the pandemic isn’t over, the event overall feels a lot like previous editions.
“There’s nothing like being back together, in person — it feels amazing,” Miller said. “Being here is a helluva lot better than being on a Zoom call. Having you all here today marks a milestone for this industry. The theme of this year’s G2E is resilience.”
Miller said that in the first seven months of 2021, commercial gaming revenue in the U.S. was $30 billion — roughly the same as the industry’s total revenue in 2020. And verticals from slots to sports betting to iGaming are on a pace well ahead of 2019’s record numbers.
The warning offered by Miller was about the volume of gambling advertising that keeps growing in the U.S., in spite of newly imposed severe restrictions on such ads in Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Sisolak said that “when times are hard, Nevada is often hit the hardest, because our economy is dependent on the kind of face-to-face, in-person gatherings that Las Vegas is known for.”
What happens in Vegas …
Titus said that her district is particularly “interesting.”
“While you are here, try and have a little fun,” she said. “You can try the world’s largest rollercoaster — or depending on how the week goes, you could get married at a drive-through wedding chapel with a mechanical arm that throws rice on your car.”
Titus encouraged G2E attendees to look for her office when they visit the nation’s capital — with “a cutout of Elvis” Presley standing guard outside her door.
She said that the expansion of legal gambling means “it is perceived much more positively than in the past, and that’s in the community and also politically in Congress.
“Our [35-member] gaming caucus is more active now and has more people involved. Now, that can be a double-edged sword; you don’t want too much federal involvement, but it can also be helpful, like when it came time to make sure the gaming industry was included in some of the [pandemic] recovery packages.”
Still, overall, Titus said that “in Congress, the attitude still is slightly negative” toward gambling. Even though many states have legal gambling, it’s a more dominant source of revenue in Nevada than in any other state.
Bills pending before Congress, Titus said, include one for physical infrastructure, such as widening roads between Las Vegas and Los Angeles and developing high-speed rail to cities like Phoenix, and another for workforce training in the state and funding for daycare programs that can help bring more employees back into the workforce.
COVID vaccinations continue to be a strong focus in Nevada, Titus added, as a way for potential tourists to feel that it is safe to visit.
“Last week, I went to vaccination clinics at a fire station, at a marijuana dispensary, and at a strip joint,” Titus said. “Now, if you aren’t covered by one of those three places — I don’t know where else you’d go. We are out there.”