G2E 2017: An extraordinary show under extraordinary circumstancesBy Jeffrey Compton, CDC Gaming ReportsOctober 6, 2017 at 12:40 amTruth be told, the pre-show G2E 2017 insider news (in other words, the gossip) was not good.Over the last three years, the American Gaming Association, under Geoff Freeman, has taken over more and more of the show’s management and planning from partner Reed Exhibitions. The idea was to give new life to an increasingly tired-looking production. As a result, the development for this year’s show was almost entirely in their corner.However, a few months ago, after a very successful G2E Asia, the AGA lost a key player, and much of the responsibility was shifted to Allie Barth, the Senior Director of Industry Services. While Barth has worked at the AGA for four years – and with Freeman at the U.S. Travel Association before that – this was her first time spearheading G2E and many folks, including me, were skeptical.Though not entirely the AGA’s fault, this year’s early publicity and registration were late. By mid-summer, sign-up numbers were reportedly down, and the attendance-drawing keynote speakers were not announced until shortly before the show. Worries from exhibitors were increasing. The word on the street was gloomy.Forty-five years of following New York theatre have taught me to discount pre-opening squawking and concentrate on what I see and hear onstage, but I was still concerned; CDC Gaming Reports was planning a major manpower investment in this year’s show. Geoff Freeman, the master of the efficient yet effective response, answered my concerns with, “The quality of the show will be determined by the experiences people have next week. I’m confident that the results will run counter to the critics.”A few days later, I extensively reviewed the seminar/conference schedule to make reporter assignments, and saw that this year’s program was quite intriguing. Traditional presentations on promotions, table game layouts, and “why you should hire me as your consultant” had been replaced with informative talks – and occasional debates – on the relevant topics of sports betting, iGaming, the new generation of casino games, customer engagement technology, handling issues with legalized marijuana, eSports and skill-based gaming, as well as tribal and international issues – plus a couple of seminars on a subject that would become the most important topic on the day the show opened: customer security.At 3:50 a.m. on the Monday morning of G2E week, Nick Sortal called to tell me that there had been a multi-casualty shooting on the South Strip. I ran over to my desk and sent a note to Freeman: “I am up and at my computer if you need anything.” His immediate response was “Thanks, accounting for team at this point.” Within 20 minutes, I received word from AGA Director of Media Relations Steve Doty that Freeman and Barth were working with local and national authorities, and that, while it looked like the show’s Monday conference program would open on schedule at 10:00 a.m., I should sit tight. I did so. A few minutes before 7:00 a.m., I received the official word from Freeman, which was immediately distributed to our network.Throughout that day and throughout show week, with complete dignity and in a very consistent and reassuring tone, the message sent by the AGA was: G2E will go on. Las Vegas will go on. The gaming industry will go on. And that message stuck. The ugliness of Sunday evening never left our thoughts, but we will have to deal with the anger, fear and loss to the best of our abilities, and still get on with the business at hand, as human beings and gaming industry professionals. I do not think that anyone could overestimate the extraordinary pressure that Geoff Freeman and Allie Barth have been dealing with throughout these past four days. In their place, I would have been overwhelmed.While I did spend a great deal of the show in the media lounge – coordinating, with Cory Roberts, three daily online newsletters plus our show special – the reports coming back from my (let me say for the record, excellent) reporting team on the seminars were generally positive – as much, if not more so, than past years. There were a few dogs (a phenomenon that I am familiar with, as I have organized and moderated more than my share of boring G2E seminars) but on the whole the information and discussions were relevant and well received. In wandering the show floor, chatting with advertisers and other exhibitors, they appeared more than pleased with both the quantity and quality of the attendees. As our esteemed columnist Buddy Frank put it: “This is the best G2E show in years for new and exciting product.”At the end of last year’s show, Allie Barth said “You always know exactly where you stand with Jeffrey Compton.” I agree; it’s a philosophy that I try to adhere to consistently. So to Ms. Barth, Mr. Freeman, Mr. Doty and the entire AGA team: against the odds, against the naysayer voices (which occasionally included my own), and in the face of an unforeseen and virtually incomprehensible nightmare, you organized, launched and completed an extraordinary 2017 G2E.Thank you!