G2E Recap: The 3 Topics That Dominated This Year’s Virtual Conference

Read about the research, recovery strategies, and success stories woven into every conversation at Virtual G2E earlier this week.

This Tuesday and Wednesday, the Global Gaming Expo put on a virtual version of this year’s G2E conference. And yes, everything revolved around COVID—but not always in the way you might think. Overall, it perfectly demonstrated the resilience of the gaming industry: thousands of attendees gathered online, 75 exhibitors showed off everything from cleaning solutions to contactless technology, and almost 70 industry leaders shared their experiences and advice in over 40 sessions.

Everyone was eager to share their experiences and hear from others. What’s been working? How are consumers changing? As a result, a few through lines appeared in nearly every session: research insights, recovery strategies, and success stories.

The Most Impactful Research Insights

Stats were popular in every single G2E session, covering topics like contactless payments to technology choices to shifting consumer attitudes. They dominated for a good reason—casino and technology leaders are grasping at what the path forward might be for the industry. And it does seem like there’s now a glimmer of understanding about where we’re headed. Five data points in particular stood out:

1. It turns out, masks aren’t that controversial at all.

Over 50% of casino visitors say masks actively improved their experience, while around 40% say masks made no impact, and fewer than 10% say masks negatively impacted their experience.

2. Americans are gaining confidence in casino safety.

As of September, fewer than 20% of Americans believe casinos are doing a poor job of reopening safely.

3. It’s not just good marketing—mobile key really is as popular as it seems.

Before COVID, mobile key usage rates sat around 20% at most properties. Now, the average is about 40% and rising, with some properties hitting even higher rates.

4. Contactless payments are never going away. In fact, they’re just getting started.

Digital wallet transactions are up 263% from last year. Merchant adoption rates have increased by 43%. And those stats are cyclical: the more consumers use it, the more merchants adopt it and vice versa.

5. At least temporarily, gaming is once again the core revenue driver, over events and amenities.

In Vegas, visitation is down 57%, but gaming is only down 39% and the amount per night being spent at casino resorts has actually gone up. The core gamer is the one who’s returned.

The Most Proven Recovery Strategies (So Far)

With casinos in different states, under different restrictions and regulations, with vastly different customer bases, you might think there’s no use trying to piece together recovery strategies that work for everyone. But you’d be wrong! It was quite the opposite. As vendors and operators shared one after the other, it became clear very quickly that two strategies have risen above the rest to dominate the recovery.

Sanitization is everything, but simple measures mean far more to consumers than fancy solutions.

Turns out, you definitely don’t need a cleaning robot for every room. Getting the basics right is everything. While UVC lamps and electrostatic spraying robots are cool, and can be useful in the right circumstances, they don’t even crack the top five things consumers are looking for in a casino experience. Instead, it’s masks, hand sanitizer, and frequent cleaning of high-traffic areas that make guests feel safest. Before anything else, get those things locked in.

Contactless anything and everything is all the rage–and it’s here to stay.

Restaurant orders? Contactless. Room keys? Contactless. Payments? Definitely contactless. And it doesn’t stop there: contactless mobile gaming options are also seeing massive interest. Behind cleanliness, a contactless, digital future for the gaming industry is the only other thing it seems just about everyone agrees on. Casino operators interviewed all said they had either already started implementing contactless measures or were strongly considering them in the months to come.

And Finally, the Most Encouraging Success Stories

While there were stories of struggle and furloughs, optimism shone through every conversation at G2E. But none more so than Tuesday morning’s G2E keynote, Leading Through COVID-19: Real Conversations on Resilience.

During the session, Firekeepers Casino Hotel CEO Kathy George, General Manager of Hollywood Casino Toledo Justin Carter, and Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort and Hotel CEO Laura Stensgar discussed their COVID journeys and how they achieved record revenue numbers in spite of safety regulations and capacity restrictions.

Each agreed that their success is a result of critical actions like fighting for staff protection throughout shutdowns, going above and beyond safety requirements during reopening, and strictly maintaining the safety protocols they put in place. But what’s even more remarkable is where their stories diverge.
Kathy is a team-driven leader. Everything she did at Firekeepers was centered around her staff, all 1800 of them. Her motto is “Treat staff the way you want them to treat guests.” Justin has a hands-on approach and a keen sense of how to balance safety and entertainment, elevating both rather than letting either slip. Laura is fiercely loyal to her tribe. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe relies heavily on the casino for jobs and revenue that supports community programs—and her motivation to support the tribe led to the first successful reopening in the country.

The overall lesson is clear; every leader has a different skill set and every property has its own unique set of needs. Your recovery strategy should work for you and play to your strengths—that’s where casinos and casino resorts will find the most success.

Remember this: while there’s still so much no one knows—like when the pandemic will end or how consumers will be affected in the long run—there’s also a lot we do know, especially compared to March. Initial consumer research shows a clear preference for safe and contactless experiences, the industry has pivoted to adapt technology and protocols that meet those needs, and successfully reopened properties are providing invaluable models for others to follow.

Did you miss us at G2E? Our session, How a Contactless Guest Experience Fits Into Your Casino Vision, is available on demand for the rest of the week. Watch it now!

Already seen the session? Check out INTELITY SVP of Sales Ben Keller’s interview series on the state of the casino industry and what the future of gaming resorts looks like. Read part one here!

Looking to find out more about how contactless technology like mobile check-in, mobile key, and mobile dining can transform the guest experience at your casino property?

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    1. Kevin Bagger, Vice President of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Research Center
    2. David Forman, Senior Director of Research at the American Gaming Association
    3. Benjamin Keller, Senior Vice President of Sales at INTELITY
    4. Warren Tristam, President of Worldpay Gaming Solutions
    5. Kevin Bagger, Vice President of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Research Center

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