Final Thoughts and Takeaways from G2E 2014

G2EDuring my two days at the 2014 Global Gaming Expo (AKA G2E) I attended a half dozen seminars, two keynote speeches, walked a showroom floor of over 500 exhibitors, met with peers, and conducted several interviews.

It was a whirlwind that kept me wrapped up in everything gaming for close to 48 hours.

The entire experience is a bit of a blur, but fortunately I took plenty of notes. Here are some of the more interesting and poignant takeaways from the 2014 Global Gaming Expo. Starting with the most important and frustrating moment of the conference.

We need to take Sheldon Adelson very serious

Adelson’s attempt to ban online gambling has been snickered at by some, or seen as a long-shot at best by others (including yours truly), but after my time at G2E and particularly listening to the two keynote addresses by Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson, I’m now of the opinion that this is far more serious than I think many people believe – or perhaps want to believe.

Adelson didn’t really say anything new, but what was surprising was the number of sympathetic ears in the crowd during his anti-online gambling screed, and the general lack of iGaming content on the seminar schedule didn’t go unnoticed either.

If you think Sheldon is a Grandpa Simpson type, yelling at the clouds, than you are seriously underestimating this man.

Lawmakers look at iGaming through a 1994 lens

Helping Adelson’s cause is the complete lack of action by lawmakers, and as many G2E attendees indicated, the absolute ignorance many of these lawmakers have when it comes to all things gambling.

The nods of agreement from the other panelists when Caesars Entertainment’s Jan Jones Blackhurst stated that lawmakers were about 20 years behind the general public when it comes to gambling issues during a panel titled Advancing Advocacy, was certainly not a good sign for regulation efforts. This lack of awareness on the part of legislators was something that was consistently mentioned throughout the conference.

This only strengthened my evolving opinion that we need to view a possible ban as a legitimate possibility, as ignorant lawmakers have a tendency of becoming easily influenced lawmakers.

So where is the AGA?

The AGA’s somewhat laughable “no position” on online gambling (they were previously for it and before that against it) was on full display at G2E, as nobody from the heavily visible organization even wanted to brooch the topic.

In fact, the mere mention of online gambling made their reps visibly uncomfortable, so much so that I made sure to bring it up to as many of them as I could just to watch the beads of sweat form and hear paid PR people say “ummm…” and forcibly smile over and over.

Frankly it’s a sad day when the main voice of the entire industry is ignoring the most important and contentious issue the industry is currently facing.

Fortunately the AGA’s no position is now coming under serious fire, and with enough pressure they should be forced to take a stand.

The rise of Social and DFS

iGaming talk at G2E may have been a little thin, but there was a stand-in for online poker and online casino talk, as the industry seems to be looking towards social casinos and fantasy sports as the wave of the future.

Whether this is due to their current favorable legal standing or the uncertainty over online gambling legislation is unclear, as it may just be a stop-gap measure until sports-betting and online gambling is legalized.

The product is great, but nobody wants it

Speaking of fantasy sports, my previously held belief that there is a fundamental flaw somewhere within its model that is preventing it from really exploding was echoed by several other people I spoke to t the conference. What that flaw might be is still unclear, but for whatever reason DFS has simply not lived up to its potential.

Right now DFS is the next big thing that nobody is interested in buying – assuming you consider the estimated $70-$100 million of yearly revenue to be insignificant of course.

Can someone tell me what a social casino is?

Actually, the answer to that question is no.

When it comes to social casinos nobody really has a clear understanding where it actually falls (is it gambling, is it a game) or even what its role in the gaming sphere is. During a social casino panel discussion there was no consensus on virtually anything related to social casinos.

Some see it as a Farmville that can be monetized on its own, while others see it as more of a play-money casino to convert land-based players. In my opinion, the role and use of social casinos and games will be a major issue in the coming years.

iGaming might be a bit too big for its britches

Online gambling may be a very big issue, but within the entire casino/gaming/gambling world it’s a drop in the bucket. Using the G2E showroom floor as an imprecise metric, less than 5% of the G2E 2014 was devoted to iGaming.

It’s important, but we sometimes have to step back and put things like iGaming and poker in their proper perspective in the gambling universe.

Did you know…

The gambling industry is larger than the airline industry and the US auto industry?

If you want to really understand the size and scope of the U.S. gaming sector (and therefore the small place iGaming holds) consider these statistics from the AGA: The gambling industry accounted for $240 billion of the U.S. economy in 2013 and employs 1.7 million people.

I learned that during a panel discussion called Advancing Advocacy (the one mentioned above), and it is part of a larger messaging campaign being conducted by the AGA called, Get to Know Gaming… but not online gambling, they don’t talk about that.

“NanaJane” and “Grams1934″ at PokerStars might actually be Grandmas

It turns online gamblers are older than we thought.

There has been skepticism regarding recent survey numbers out of New Jersey that puts the average age of online gambling patrons in their fifties, but these may not be too far from the truth, as two separate studies in Canada and the U.S. found 1/2 the market is in the 35-54 demographic and nearly a third of the market is over 55.

This information was relayed by John Bonno, Director at AlixPartners, and Paul Lauzon, Senior Vice President, Lottery & Gaming at Ipsos Reid, in a seminar titled, Market Research: The Ideal Online Gambler.

When Millennials rule the world

Despite these statistics that show the average online gambler is not some college kid, nearly every marketer and panelists was only interested in appealing to millennials.

Millennial may have very well been the most used word at G2E.

Live poker is rigged?

According to Doug Florence, a former casino security chief and the now Vice President of Strategic Operations at eConnect, I can buy a real deck of any casino’s playing cards for about $5,000 (average) or a knock-off deck from China complete with special markings for $60.

Why is this important? because according to Florence and the dozen or so regulators/security specialists in the seminar, casinos don’t spend much time observing poker rooms or pointing their cameras in that direction because it’s not a house banked game.

Steve Wynn is a BOSS; Sheldon Adelson is a BORE

Even though I disagree with some of his stances, Steve Wynn delivered a captivating keynote address. He’s a terrific speaker and had the audience’s ear throughout his hour-long speech.

On the flip side, during Sheldon Adelson’s speech/Q&A session with Roger Gros, I found it difficult to even concentrate until he got to online gambling.

Steve Wynn’s speech inspired me; Sheldon Adelson’s had me counting the number of lines on the paper in my notebook.

If I had to give an example between the two: If I worked for Steve Wynn and he asked me to get him a cup of coffee I would hustle the whole way, and make sure it was the freshest, most perfect cup of coffee ever poured. If I worked for Sheldon Adelson, I’d probably stop for a cigarette en route (even though I don’t smoke) and fill it from yesterday’s carafe.

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