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Gaming expo draws thousands seeking new products, technology

This year’s Global Gaming Expo show floor is bigger and brighter than ever — or at least the slot machines on display inside are.

A slew of slot manufacturers from the U.S. and abroad showed off machines with newer, flashier cabinets and high-resolution screens on Tuesday, the second day of G2E and the first day attendees could walk the show floor.

Before the expo opened, American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller welcomed attendees to the show, organized by the AGA and Reed Exhibitions. Attendees also had the opportunity to hear a keynote speech by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who led the charge to overturn a federal ban on sports betting in the U.S.

The star attraction Tuesday was the expo floor, with nearly 400 exhibitors showcasing slot machines, skill-based gaming machines, table games, kiosks, payment systems, casino furnishings and more.

“It’s a lot to take in,” said Andrea Guerrero, a computer technician from Florida-based Wingate Oaks Center who made the trek to G2E for the first time. “It’s a little overwhelming. There’s a lot of bright lights.”

‘A lot of curiosity’

Once the doors opened at 10 a.m., thousands of people filled the Sands Expo and Convention Center, including buyers outfitted in business suits, models clad in slot-themed attire and even “Jeopardy!” champion James Holzhauer himself. Holzhauer made an appearance at the IGT booth, where the latest Jeopardy! slot game was on display.

Alvin Francis, chief of the Nekaneet First Nation in Saskatchewan, said he made the trip to Las Vegas to make sure the seven casinos his community runs were offering the most up-to-date technology.

“I really enjoy it,” he said. “They’re more or less updating what’s out there today.”

Dawn Brandt, director of cash operations in the Altoona, Iowa-based Prairie Meadows casino, said she had already noticed a lot of new technology on the first day of the show floor. She said cash handling equipment and sports betting innovations were two things she was interested in this year.

“Iowa just passed sports betting, so it’s interesting to see all of the different entities out here supporting it,” she said.

Phil O’Shaughnessy, vice president of global communications at IGT, said the company’s sports betting offerings had been grabbing attention at this year’s convention. The industry has been growing fast since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was struck down last year; as of today, 13 states have sports betting.

“There’s a lot of curiosity still about sports betting. It is certainly a trending topic,” O’Shaughnessy said.

Brandt said the updated slot machine displays at the convention also drew her attention.

“The technology and the screen clarity and the crispness of the games is really kind of nice,” she said “That’s what you want when people are walking through. You want something that’s going to grab your attention and pull you toward it.”

‘Leading-edge technology’

This year’s G2E is showing a lot of large-format cabinets with high-resolution graphics, according to Thomas Jingoli, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Konami Gaming Inc.

High-definition screens “seems to be a common goal or a common theme in the booths,” he said. “Manufacturers are heading in that direction. You have to build what the consumer wants.”

Nathan Drane, vice president of commercial strategy-game sales at Aristocrat Technologies, said the company was debuting its 49-inch portrait, 4K-resolution monitor at the expo. He said he’s been seeing a lot of “light shows” enhanced around the cabinets’ button decks, screens and top boxes.

“It’s great to have light and bright on your floors, and that’s what our cabinets certainly do,” he said. “It’s going to create visual destinations. It’s also going to create an immersive experience for our players.”

O’Shaughnessy said that picture quality in slot machines has “improved dramatically” over the years.

“You’re seeing a really high level of resolution, you’re seeing very sophisticated monitors, you’re also seeing in the game merchandising itself (with) very sophisticated displays,” he said. “The casino floor has become a leading-edge technology showcase.”

That seems to be what a lot of buyers are looking for.

“It’s what brings everyone in, right? It’s the bright lights, it’s the colored lights,” Francis said.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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