Gaming conferences are a great way to learn about the latest industry trends. They offer the chance to network with peers and, in some cases, get a glimpse of the newest products developers are cooking up.
In short, gaming conferences can reveal the zeitgeist of the gaming industry.
They’re also quite expensive to attend, which can make registering for a conference a nerve-racking experience. It leads to questions like:
- Is it worth the price?
- Should I go to conference ‘x’ or conference ‘y’?
I’ll try to clear up some the unknowns about gaming conferences and provide insight into choosing which conference(s) you may want to consider attending.
Comparing and contrasting conferences
There are no shortage of gaming conferences to choose from throughout the year, and which conference(s) you might attend depends on several factors.
Unfortunately, outside of the biggest shows, they’re not widely publicized. Finding the best fit isn’t as easy as it should be. It also doesn’t help that conferences tend to use acronyms that bleed together and make it difficult to differentiate between them: ICE, G2E, EiG, IGNA, GiGse, NIGA, and so on.
A good way to get a feel for a conference’s scope and suitability for you is to look at the session agenda and see what topics will be discussed. As the event draws closer, a list of speakers and moderators appears too. The more conferences you attend, the more familiar you’ll become with these names and what type of insight they have to offer.
Another way to get a general idea of what a conference is all about is by checking the sponsorship list, and if applicable, the exhibitors list.
It’s also important to realize there are…
Two types of conferences
You might think bigger is better, but this isn’t always the case. Big shows might have more options and opportunities. But smaller conferences deliver plenty of benefits the big shows don’t.
The case for smaller conferences
Smaller conferences have much narrower focuses, such as iGaming, affiliate marketing or the regulatory aspects of the industry. These conferences are also shorter in duration (usually a day or two) and draw smaller crowds, but in a more intimate setting.
These targeted conferences are designed to bring like-minded people together for on-topic discussions and offer solid networking opportunities. You’ll also find a single track of panel sessions with more in-depth discussions.
The other type of conference is big trade shows, like ICE and G2E. There are also other smaller trade shows that incorporate an exhibitors hall along with a conference, such as EiG and NIGA.
Trade shows are (much) larger industry-wide shows, usually containing multiple conference tracks and expansive showroom floors. Networking is still a big part of these shows, but people are far more pressed for time as they hop from one appointment to the next. Furthermore, if you’re there for a single reason, 95 percent of the other attendees and the bulk of the seminars and panels won’t be of any use to you.
Furthermore, even though there’s a lot more choice when it comes to panel sessions, the discussions tend to be more educational in nature. Not all of the attendees have the type of intimate knowledge you find at the smaller, more targeted shows.
With that out of the way, let’s jump into the 2017 conference calendar.
ICE and G2E bookend the conference season
The first big conference of the year was ICE in London. ICE is a huge show that takes place every February. ICE ran Feb. 7-9 at ExCel in London.
The conference season usually comes to a close in early October (this is not quite the case this year), when Global Gaming Expo (G2E) wraps up in Las Vegas. This year, G2E will take place Oct. 2-5, and as always, will be held at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
These are the must-attend shows (I go to G2E every year). Anyone and everyone is there, from regulators and lawyers to the biggest gaming suppliers and casino corporations in the world.
Because of their size, other conferences tend to give ICE and G2E a wide berth. You won’t find too many shows in the weeks before or after ICE and G2E. Because the trips are pricey (in addition to the conference cost), visitors usually have to block out nearly a week to attend.
Filling in your conference calendar between ICE and G2E
The period between ICE and G2E is the prime season for the smaller, more focused gaming conferences.
If you’re looking for information and networking opportunities within your sliver of the gaming world and thinking about attending a couple conferences, it’s important to pay close attention to the scope of the agenda. You’ll want to maximize your time and energy by going to the right conference.
The bulk of the smaller conferences occur between April and June, during the peak season.
Peak-season conferences and trade shows
NIGA Indian Gaming Tradeshow 2017 (NIGA): April 10-13
There are a number of tribal gaming shows and conferences throughout the year, but the National Indian Gaming Association Tradeshow is the biggest. As noted above, in terms of size, NIGA occupies the middle ground between ICE and G2E and the smaller conferences. The scope of the show is anything and everything to do with tribal gaming.
This year, NIGA will take place at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California, from April 10-13.
Global iGaming Summit & Expo (GiGse): April 27-29
A couple weeks after NIGA, San Diego will host a second conference, GiGse, which will run from April 27-29 at the Marriott Marquis Marina.
GiGse is short for Global iGaming Summit & Expo, but the show focuses on the US gaming industry in a forward-looking way.
Southern Gaming Summit (SGS): May 2-4
The Southern Gaming Summit focuses on, but isn’t exactly limited to, land-based gaming in the American South.
Southern Gaming Summit 2017 runs from May 2-4, and will be held at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi, Miss.
East Coast Gaming Congress (ECGC): May 24, 25
The East Coast Gaming Congress is an interesting conference that runs the gamut when it comes to topics. It is heavily attended by lawmakers and regulators.
Fantasy Sports Trade Association 2017 Summer Conference (FSTA): June 19, 20
If your focus is daily fantasy sports, then the FSTA Summer Conference is your Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup and NBA Finals all rolled into one.
The two-day conference will be held in New York City, at the Crowne Plaza in Times Square Manhattan on June 19 and 20.
iGaming Super Show: July 11-14
The iGaming Super Show is pretty big, measuring attendance in the thousands. The 2017 iGaming Super Show will be held at the Amsterdam RAI in the Netherlands. The Super Show runs concurrently with the Amsterdam Affiliate Conference, both taking place at the RAI July 11-14.
Two days before the show, there is also the iGaming Masterclass, which makes a trip to Amsterdam in mid-July pretty much a one-stop-shop for online gambling folks.
National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) Summer Meeting: June 9-11
The final entry on my conference calendar is the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS), which will be held in Denver, Colo., June 9-11.
NCLGS, as the name indicates, is for legislators serving in gaming states. The conference is 95 percent lawmakers, staff and regulators.
NCLGS is a small conference, and a good one for anyone following the legislative developments in the US.[i15-table tableid=20717][i15-table tableid=20704]
Offseason conferences and trade shows
iGaming North America (iGNA): November 2017
iGaming North America (iGNA) is an online-focused conference. Even though it boasts the North America tag, topics are largely US-related.
iGNA used to take place in Las Vegas sometime in April (usually right around the same time as GiGse), but the show has now been moved to a new date and location.
This time around, iGNA will be held in November (dates TBA) in New York City.
Excellence in iGaming (EiG): Oct. 30-Nov. 1
Excellence in iGaming (EiG) is one of the bigger online specific shows. Like NIGA, it falls somewhere between the trade shows and the targeted conferences in size.
This year, EiG will be held in Berlin, Germany from Oct. 30 through Nov. 1.
NCLGS Winter Meeting
If you didn’t get enough NCLGS in June, you can attend its winter conference, which is usually held in January. The winter meeting follows the same agenda as the summer meeting.