This article first appeared in the Mar/Apr 2014 issue of World Gaming magazine.
G2E Asia is back at the Venetian Macau from 20 to 22 May with the promise of the biggest show yet as it celebrates its eighth year. WGM caught up with Mike Johnson – Industry Vice President of organizer Reed Exhibitions – to chat about Macau’s longest running gaming trade show.
World Gaming magazine: First of all Mike, G2E Asia is entering its eighth year. Can you tell us a bit about how it has progressed over the years since the very first G2E Asia back in 2007?
Mike Johnson: A lot! When we first entered the market in 2007, the Venetian – or any part of the Cotai Strip for that matter – was not yet open, which in itself is a sign of the times. We held the inaugural show at the Macau Tower which we sold out in just a few short months in terms of exhibition space, and since that time the show has grown by more than 150 percent in terms of audited exhibit and attendee participation. That growth on the exhibition side represents sheer volume in terms of suppliers and service providers looking to serve the Asian markets, as well as more core gaming companies taking additional space to introduce a wider array of products to the market. In 2007 many global suppliers simply offered variations of games popular in other markets. Today we see games specifically designed for Asian players, many of which are strategically launched at G2E Asia which is very exciting. And on the attendee side, we’ve seen a lot of integrated casino resort expansion since 2007 including new properties in Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and more. The growth overall in Asia has simply been amazing and with more expansion potential in Japan, Taiwan and Korea, it remains a very exciting time for the industry at large.
WGM: Obviously the Asian market is very different to the US market. Have you learnt a lot about working in Asia in that time?
MJ: Absolutely. One of the common mistakes that any international business can make is assuming your product will simply work in another jurisdiction without adaptation. Certainly G2E Asia has changed a bit since its inception as we’ve learned more about the region. However, Reed Exhibitions is in fact a global company with many local business units, including Reed Exhibitions Greater China which represents the region’s largest organizer. RXGC currently manages 53 events throughout China, across 11 industry segments, and is locally managed by fully staffed offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Zhengzhou and Hong Kong. We also have regional offices throughout the greater Asia Pacific region including Singapore, Malaysia, India, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand and more. With those unmatched resources we’ve been able to learn quickly from our international colleagues, who also represent many of the different cultures that participate in G2E Asia. As the world’s largest event organizer, it’s very common for one of our regional events to expand into another as we work closely as one company. It’s how we grow and learn, and provide growth and learning for the industries we serve. Additionally, we make it common practice to work directly with the industries we serve, often forming advisory boards of local experts.
WGM: How does the G2E Asia exhibition compare in general to G2E Vegas?
MJ: There is certainly cross over in terms of global participation, particularly in core gaming segments like table games, slots, multi-player electronic games and peripherals. The G2E portfolio prides itself on being the only portfolio of events that are by the industry and for the industry. This uniquely positions us to facilitate business for the greater industry throughout the world based on what the industry demands and deems most valuable and relevant. That said, each event is also a reflection of their host markets and regions. G2E Las Vegas is much larger in scale, about four times the size of G2E Asia, with much more global participation. Now one might ask why that’s the case given that Asia is clearly surpassing the Las Vegas market in terms of annual gaming revenue – I’ve been asked that many times. The reality is that we represent a B2B [business-to- business] forum designed to bring buyers and sellers together within the industry – we are not a B2C [business-to- consumer] operation serving the gambling public. When you look at the two regions under that spectrum, North America still represents a much larger market in terms of the amount of casino properties and hence event attendees. That said, Asia continues to grow, with more focus on non-gaming amenities as part of the integrated resort model so G2E Asia will continue to grow as well.
WGM: What’s new at G2E Asia in 2014?
MJ: I’m pleased to announce several new components to the conference program this year including an Investment Forum produced with Union Gaming as well as an iGaming Summit produced with Asia Gambling Brief – both of which are the result of industry demand. Those two programs will complement our annual Gaming Management Certificate Program (GMCP) produced with the University of Macau and University of Nevada Las Vegas. On a related front I’m also pleased that we’ve again partnered with the University of Macau on an annual scholarship program for local hospitality and MICE students to assist with their learning and career advancement. Our continued partnership with the University of Macau shows our commitment to future gaming leaders and our interest in serving the industry to help develop these emerging leaders. On the exhibit side, we’re currently pacing about 13 percent ahead of last year’s mark in terms of exhibition space, which essentially yields a show floor already larger than last year with several months to go in the recruitment process. Look for more company participation across a variety of product segments including core gaming – table, slot and electronic tables and hybrids – as well as non-gaming, iGaming, security and more.
WGM: We have recently seen the emergence of a new gaming show in Macau. How do you feel G2E differs and what advantages does G2E offer to the Macau and Asian market?
MJ: Well G2E Asia has always been, and will always be, an event meant to bring the entire regional and global industries together. With our global partnerships and Reed’s global MICE capabilities, we’re able to provide an event that is aimed to serve everyone operating or supplying across the region. That said, although the show is proudly based in Macau, where we are honored to operate, there’s a reason the show’s name is “G2E Asia” and not “G2E Macau”. We want to facilitate business for the greater industry and all of its markets, both existing and emerging.
WGM: We’ve noticed you have a Players Club at this year’s show. What is this and what advantages does it bring to those who are a part of it?
MJ: The Players Club represents a very strategic part of our event strategy. In the modern convention and exhibition business, which goes back over 100 years, organizers have generally relied on a mass market approach to drive as many event participants as possible within industry segments. And while we always want as many relevant people attending our shows as possible, we also want to ensure that the most qualified industry professionals are represented – those with the greatest buying power and decision making ability for our exhibitors, the brightest minds and thought leaders in our conference programs and more. That philosophy represents a shift in exhibition organizing which Reed Exhibitions initiated across all of our business units several years ago. It’s referred to as our targeted attendee program. The concept has been rolled out across many of our 500 global events, each of which is branded and adapted to the industries they serve. Taking a page out of casino loyalty programs, the “Players Club” represents G2E’s version of that program. With that we have staff managing relationships with key casino executives throughout the entire Asia Pacific region, learning about their needs so we can reflect upon them with content as well as onsite amenities.
WGM: G2E time is always a great chance for industry people to network as many people from the gaming industry are in town at the same time. What parties or networking events has G2E organized for this year’s show?
MJ: Indeed, and we’re in the process of firming up those details as we speak because we know the importance of our ability to facilitate networking during the show. Many exhibiting companies hold private parties throughout the week for their casino customers, and G2E also organizes key events as well, including our annual Welcome Reception which will take place at the close of our first day on Tuesday, 20 May. Stay tuned for details.