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Raptors, zombies kick off gambling expo in Vegas

By Hannah Dreier
Associated Press

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LAS VEGAS: The world’s largest gambling conference is underway in Las Vegas with flashing slot machines, chain-smoking businessmen, and glittery performers dressed as characters from Avatar and the Walking Dead.

Geoff Freeman, who took over as head of the American Gaming Association this summer, welcomed 25,000 attendees and then ushered in a comedy troupe to lampoon them. The room stayed mostly quiet.

Freeman told the Associated Press one of his top priorities for the coming year will be persuading state regulators to impose less stringent restrictions on the casino industry, and to make them more uniform.

“Our industry isn’t allowed to update because of the regulatory environment. That’s something we need to address. We want to be regulated. However, there are places that it crosses the line and really affects innovation and makes us less competitive,” he said. “Each new state that comes on feels like they have to turn the screws a little bit tighter than the one before.”

He reiterated the industry’s support for federal online gambling legislation but admitted the prospects for a bill’s passage this year are gloomy.

Several states have legalized Internet gambling individually as Congress has failed to act.

Elaborate displays promoting new slot machine brands dominate the conference’s exhibit floor at the Sands Expo & Convention Center. One company trucked in giant plastic raptors to promote a new Jurassic Park game. Another used showgirls turned into zombies to promote a new Walking Dead brand. The image of Las Vegas magician David Copperfield towered over one corner of the convention.

In addition to new themed slot machines, this year’s Global Gaming Expo features a special exhibition just for entertainment. High-end clubs and restaurants have become a staple in Las Vegas as gambling revenue has plateaued.

The conference, dubbed “G2E,” continues through today.

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