PlayUSA Rewind: Global Gaming Expo Returns To Las Vegas After Virtual Year

Posted By Brant James on October 6, 2021

The expansive concrete floor wasn’t nearly as packed with vendors as in previous years, and the buyers and the sellers and the curious were all masked. Otherwise, the Global Gaming Expo at the Sand Expo Center marked another tenuous step toward normalcy this week.

Event organizers wouldn’t categorize the decline in vendor participation other than confirming it was down. American Gaming Association President Bill Miller, in a welcome speech that read like a call to arms meets hype video script, mentioned that attendance had been impacted by the inability of foreign industry, notably from Europe, to travel because of COVID-19 restrictions.

All in all, though, I observed that there was positivity and the mantra of face-to-face was better, even while masked.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak keynoted the opening day of the exhibition hall by remembering March 18, 2020, the day he had to close it all down.

“I will never forget the day,” he said. “I stood on my balcony on the Grant Sawyer Building looking downtown and seeing those lights and said, ‘I had to turn those lights off and put a quarter of a billion of people out of work.’”

The governor went on to commend the state’s resolve and response, with an eye toward recovery and hope.

Nevada setting records in gambling revenue

Sisolak must have peeked at Nevada’s gaming numbers before striding out to the podium.

According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, monthly gaming revenue in August surpassed $1 billion for the sixth consecutive month. Additionally, revenue spiked by 56.9% from August of 2020, which comes with the huge qualifier that Nevada casinos were still under capacity limits and social distancing mandates at the time. But, the customers have come back with a fury, albeit tapering off 14% after a record-breaking July. Nevada revenue set a record of $1.23 billion in revenue in July.

Slots were the big contributor in August, accounting for $825.1 million, a 57% increase from a year ago.

Are sports betting pitchmen worth the money?

Sportsbook operators keep adding former pro athletes as spokespersons at a rapid rate. WynnBet landed one of the biggest in signing Shaquille O’Neal and immediately deploying him to shoot commercials with actor Ben Affleck.

O’Neal not only pitches everything from pizza to car insurance, but his most notably weekly presence is on a TNT NBA broadcast adorned with DraftKings advertising.

Is he counteracting the message for WynnBet at this point?

Kern Egan, president of consulting for SPORTFIVE, one of the world’s largest sports and entertainment marketing agencies, had an interesting perspective:

“I think what you see there is sort of bifurcation between the assets you’re trying to procure, to go in over time, and the advertising out-of-dollar allocation that you or your competitor sort of have,” he said. “Clearly [WynnBet is] interested in building their own brand, building their own community, maybe building their own media platform, where Shaq is coming to work for them in so many other different areas that they’re willing to maybe overlook some of the confusion that might happen when he’s on television one night a week.

“I know, ideally it’s all aligned. But again, with this ruthless competition and seemingly endless, endless resources in this category, you have to pick and choose your battles.”

Big Data Bowl returns to shape the future of your sports bet, fantasy roster

The Big Data Bowl has returned for a fourth installment. Why does this matter in a sports betting article? The yearly build-a-better algorithm contest for the quants and data scientists who walk among us is officially empowered, according to an NFL release, to “engage and empower the football analytics community to drive innovation, create new insights and make the game more exciting for fans.”

In the context of this space, it describes a competition for divining new ways of culling and assessing information that can be used to evaluate players, teams and help form better fantasy or NFL betting decisions. Expected Rushing Yards didn’t just think of itself. In fact, it was a winning entry in the 2020 competition that has since been folded into the league’s Next Gen Stats.

To win this $100,000 prize, competitors must “devise innovative approaches to analyzing special teams in the NFL …  Participants have access to three years of special teams data and are challenged to identify what strategies and players make for successful punt, kickoff, field goal and extra point plays,” according to a release. More than 30 BDB alums have been hired by the league or NFL teams.

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Bettors are throwing money the NFL season

Breaking: Folks like betting on the NFL.

According to data released by GeoComply, the company that sets digital perimeters around legal sports betting jurisdictions, “the first four weeks of the NFL season has produced the highest number of geolocation transactions ever recorded by GeoComply.”

According to GeoComply, there were 330 million geolocation transactions across 18 states and the District of Columbia during the span ended on Oct. 3, representing a 122% increase from the same period a year ago. The figure is impressive enough, but even weightier considering it does not include Nevada. Whereas GeoComply enjoys a virtual monopoly nationally, Nevada operators use a legacy vendor.

Also, GeoComply’s G2E team is wearing branding kicks. So that’s a win.


News from human resources

  • Joe Asher went from a parting of ways with William Hill US – where he’d been a longtime CEO – to retired to president of sports betting at IGT.
  • Amy Howe went from the newly created position of president to interim chief executive officer to full-time CEO of FanDuel.
  • WynnBET hired Ian Williams as chief operating officer to oversee trading, marketing, customer service, payments and data science teams. He was most recently the president of online gaming for Churchill Downs Inc.
  • DraftKings announced plans to build a 90,000-square foot office in Las Vegas, making it the DFS and sports betting company’s second-largest office, behind only Boston. DraftKings hasn’t applied for licensure in Nevada, but sportsbook head Johnny Avello is already working from there and it stands to reason the company will add this symbolic piece to its portfolio.
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Brant James

Brant James is a veteran journalist who has twice been recognized in the Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, most recently in 2020. He's covered motorsports, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball among a myriad of others beats and written enterprise and sports business for publications including USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com.

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