G2E and Las Vegas felt energized last week in a way they haven’t for quite a few Octobers, which may be the biggest headline out of our industry’s annual meeting of the minds. To be sure, we gathered our team to discuss their takeaways from conversations on and off the show floor. The following reflects The Innovation Group’s topline views on the direction of the industry coming out of G2E 2023.
Firing on all cylinders. We noticed definitive confidence in the health of the gaming industry, and undeniable optimism building on two years of gradual recovery from the pandemic. There is palpable concern about the mid-term investment environment, but the continued development and alignment of new gaming channels, as well as their supporting technologies and platforms, is what is really consuming the industry’s talent globally today. Meanwhile, both regional and destination bricks-and-mortar facilities are planning formidable reinvestment, and developers are still seeing expansion, albeit modest, in many parts of the world. To discuss these trends and others highlighted during G2E’s Looking at the Crystal Ball session, please contact firm President Michael Soll.
Branded slots lead the way. In product development, NFL-branded slot machines from Aristocrat Gaming were a highlight of the show, with “NFL Super Bowl Jackpots” now on casino floors. Light & Wonder showed off their new “Squid Game” product with Steve Aoki, while IGT promoted a Whitney Houston slot machine. Metamorphics and Hold-and-Spin remain key mechanics showcased by suppliers and appear to be driving success in new products. Talk product with our Senior Analyst Carly Albright.
iGaming usurps sports betting as the talk of the town. The launch of Fanatics Sportsbook along with the demise of Barstool Sportsbook and the upcoming launch of ESPN Bet are driving questions around the sports betting business model: How will businesses outside of sports and gaming participate in and contribute to gaming’s success? Meanwhile, the talk of the show was iGaming and, specifically, which states may pass online casino legislation next. Currently live in only six states, there are rumblings from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, New York, and others; but questions remain. What will iGaming look like in tribal country? How will regulators and iGaming operators address responsible gambling? And will the leaders in sports betting inevitably dominate the iCasino space? Discuss the potential answers with EVP Brian Wyman.
Non-gaming elements driving success (pun intended). There was plenty to like at G2E this year, but the energy around Las Vegas seemed centered around two key elements: the opening of the Sphere and the upcoming Formula One race. The absolutely nightmarish traffic caused by F1 construction is being offset by immense excitement around hosting this event, exceeded only by the enthusiasm of visitors planning their incredibly expensive trips into town. And we’ve hardly seen a more Instagrammable opening than that of the Sphere, headlined by the always entertaining and tech-forward U2. Couple these nongaming elements with the long-anticipated opening of Fontainebleau in December, and you have an incredibly memorable Q4 in Las Vegas. We are receiving a lot of inquiries about expanded entertainment venues and more experiential amenities, suggesting that another wave of the “Vegas model,” shifting mix toward non-gaming revenue, may be coming to regional markets soon. Connect with SVP Mike Vanaskie to learn more about non-gaming expansion at the regional level.
Indian Country continues to innovate. The aforementioned trends are as relevant for Indian gaming as they are for the commercial sector. As tribes navigate the complex legislative and implementation issues of sports betting and iGaming, the talk we heard from tribal country at G2E touches on many of the same themes we’ve reported throughout the year, including DEI initiatives, tribal member development, economic diversification, and weighing the pros and cons of smokefree casinos. On the product side, while we see Class II devices quickly closing the performance gap with Class III games, we also saw a number of Class II table games on display this G2E, presenting some tribes with a quicker-to-market opportunity to offer “full” casino gaming. Contact SVP Chris Irwin to discuss these and other key factors driving Indian Gaming today.
Changes afoot in Canada. In Canada, private and public sector gaming are converging with an increasing focus on social responsibility and responsible gambling. The inefficiency of exclusivity increasingly is recognized as an impediment to maximizing market potential. Further, in seeking control over rapidly expanding online gaming channels, provinces are revisiting how online gaming is implemented, with many considering privatization in Ontario's footsteps. And notably, the recapitalization of long-standing casino properties is resulting in new discussions between gaming operators and governments about control, capital risk and what the 'casino of the future' will look like. For more on these trends, contact Canada SVP Kevin Dennis.