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Gaming industry’s expanding reach a theme of G2E

2016 Global Gaming Expo: Day 1

Steve Marcus

Matt Wilson, left, Aristocrat senior vice president of global gaming operations, greets country music star Tim McGraw during the unveiling a Tim McGraw-themed slot machine in the Aristocrat booth during the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) convention at the Sands Expo and Convention Center Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016.

2016 Global Gaming Expo: Day 1

Country music star Tim McGraw says a few words after unveiling a Tim  McGraw-themed slot machine in the Aristocrat booth during the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) convention at the Sands Expo and Convention Center Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. Launch slideshow »

If this year’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E), underway this week at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, is about any one thing, it’s about the gaming industry’s expansion beyond the political, geographical and demographic barriers it currently faces.

Total revenue (commercial and tribal combined) for the industry in 2015 was up almost 8 percent over a pre-recession high, said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association in a state-of-the-industry news conference on Tuesday.

The industry certainly seems to be doing well, but, of course, industry leaders don’t want to stop there.

After recapping the industry’s growth and success, Freeman highlighted the positive relationship the AGA has with tribal gaming. Freeman joined National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernest L. Stevens Jr., the first time the leaders of the casino industry’s two key sectors shared the G2E main stage, to outline their common goals. This year’s G2E also features at least seven educational sessions dedicated to aspects of tribal gaming.

Tribal gaming helps the industry’s geographic reach in states that only allow casino gaming on Indian reservations.

Freeman devoted time to another barrier the industry wants to overcome — the almost nationwide prohibition against sports betting.

Of course, nationwide legalization could allow gambling in almost every state, but it could also remove some demographic barriers given the appeal sports has across generational divides.

Sports betting is legal in the United Kingdom, and Freeman bolstered the AGA’s argument for legalized sports betting nationwide by inviting two proponents from the U.K. to speak. Rick Parry, founder of the FA Premier Soccer League and chairman of a sports betting integrity panel in the U.K., and David Forrest, an economics professor at the University of Liverpool Management School, discussed the benefits of legalizing sports betting.

Freeman concluded by predicting sports betting would be legal in the U.S. within five years.

But sports betting isn’t the only tool gaming is using to reach people it hasn’t reached before.

Across the exhibition floor, various gaming companies were touting skill-based casino games that are similar, or in some cases, identical to games millennials already play on their smartphones and gaming consoles.

Gamblit Gaming is exhibiting two new casino games that add wagering to titles that have already had great success.

Gamblit’s “Into the Dead” has been downloaded more than 60 million times. Another title, “Catapult Kings,” has been downloaded more than 35 million times. Gamblit officials hope to introduce “gamblified” versions of the games to Las Vegas casino floors early next year.

Darion Lowenstein, an avid video-gamer who has been chief marketing officer for Gamblit Gaming since 2015, said that none of his friends gambled during the various trips he’s made to Las Vegas over the years.

“But we all grew up playing ‘Super Nintendo’ and other games,” he said. “We’re all used to skill-based gaming.”

“Into the Dead” is aimed squarely at that demographic, Lowenstein said, with its specific target being 25- to 40-year-old males.

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