IGA 2023 San Diego – An Exhibitor’s Point of View

(first published in Gaming America by Managing Director Chris Wieners)

The recent IGA 2023 show held in San Diego, California was another example of the post-COVID world returning to normal. A busy tradeshow floor, tribal representation from across the United States and excited operators ready to purchase – I think one can truly say “We’re Back!”.

With all of the excitement that came with the shows return to San Diego, there were definitely some unique aspects worth pointing out that showcase the current state of affairs for tribal gaming operators and a glimpse into what the future may hold, but good and bad. Here are some of my observations as an exhibitor who walked the floor, connected with clients, industry partners and competitors.

Changing tides – the move to straight purchase of gaming equipment

While this may not be specific to tribal gaming only, the reliance on daily fees and revenue share is definitely shifting. With the  majority of operators experiencing an amazing two-year run, we are witnessing a shift from interest in long term lease and rev-share deals to more straight purchase requests. To be candid, this makes it significantly harder for both newer and smaller manufacturers who must truly prove their worth (and their longevity) to be rightfully considered for placement. Not an impossible task, but definitely more difficult if you’re new to the market.

Innovation – more can be done for Tribal operators

One thing that could further liven up IGA and interest in it are the innovations that are showcased across the tradeshow floor. It’s no secret that most major manufacturers are ‘saving up’ for their big product launches at G2E. While not true for all, there is definitely a lot to be said for scale (not only in regard to size) of the booths. Understandably it makes more financial sense for operators to go all out for G2E. However, I think there would be something to be said for additional unique innovations, offerings and on-floor events at IGA.

San Diego vs. Anaheim – who does it better?

One of the most contested announcements was that of the movement back to Anaheim for IGA 2024. I heard considerably mixed messaging from both operators and manufacturers. In some cases, Anaheim is an easier location to get to. It does offer a considerable infrastructure when it comes to tourism and conferences. However, I believe the general feeling was that San Diego, when available, makes for a much better conference. Regardless of your preference in baseball teams, the location, proximity to the airport and hotels as well as overall vibe of the city seems to put San Diego in the lead.

Game design – times are changing

Anecdotally, some interesting changes happening in game design which were present at various slot manufacturers across the board. Our team checked out various competitors during the event and noticed a few key trends including:

  • Significantly more multi-feature games
  • Cash on reels (i.e. hold and re-spin) is still hot
  • Significantly more randomized triggers vs. the previous 3 scatter (landing) trigger features

Representing an operator that is one hundred percent focused on tribal gaming operators in the USA, I can safely say that IGA is our group’s most important show of the year. While it may not have the scale of G2E, it’s pure focus on tribal gaming allows manufacturers and service providers the ability to connect with tribal operators in a way not really possible at some of the larger shows. The integration of the IGA board meeting, the attendance by national tribal councils and a complete focus on the issues facing the tribal gaming industry make this a show that only has room to grow. I believe it imperative for IGA (as an association) to focus on growth and representation, as well as to leverage the resources of their partners (think, non-native organizations) to help further build the strength of the organization and ultimately the annual trade show at large. I, for one, am excited about what the next five years holds in store for tribal properties across the United States and am happy to be a part of it.