Friday, September 22, 2023

Making the Vegas 2022 fall conference rounds

Photo: The 2022 slate of TEA Masters gathers on stage with several honorees from previous years at the SATE conference

Las Vegas played host to three industry conferences in October. InPark publisher Martin Palicki reports from Nevada.


Our first stop on the Vegas business circuit is for the World Waterpark Association’s (WWA) annual show for professionals and vendors in the waterpark industry. Held October 4-7 at the recently opened Caesars Forum convention center behind the Strip’s Harrah’s resort, vendors from around the world met with leaders from waterparks large and small, from destination parks to compact municipal facilities.

One of the major issues of particular concern to the industry is the ongoing labor shortage. Finding lifeguards remains challenging for many locations, as the typical teenage or young adult worker has either opted for a different job or, in some affluent areas, chose not to work at all.

ProSlide’s booth at the 2022 WWA trade show

While near-term solutions appear in short supply, many believe the labor market will return to more typical patterns in the not-too-distant future.

WWA’s robust education program included a keynote speech from motivational speaker Punam Mathur. In a recent interview with InPark, Baha Bay general manager Melissa Lockwood said the WWA conference sessions provide “a great opportunity to bring valuable information back to your organization and learn what’s new and upcoming in the industry.”

For networking, the trade show floor hosted daily lunches for all attendees, an evening happy hour on Wednesday, and the annual reunion pool party that took place this year at Cowabunga Bay in nearby Henderson, Nevada. Vegas showgirls, an Elvis impersonator and no-money gaming table games entertained guests who gathered around the park’s large wave pool.

Tours of the facility, which opened in 2014, took place throughout the evening. An impressive fireworks display over the pool capped off the evening before guests boarded shuttles back to the convention center.

WWA’s 2023 event is scheduled for Oct 24-27 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

For more waterpark market information, read our recent article by economic analyst David J. Sangree.

Fireworks light up the sky above Cowabunga Bay at the end of WWA’s annual pool reunion party, during the 2022 waterpark show.


A new Willy Wonka slot machine at the G2E expo

A few days later and just around the corner at the Venetian Expo center, the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) brought together the gambling industry for its annual conference and trade show October 10-13. The expo featured everything from the latest slot machines to bar stools and cash counters. Similar to the attractions space, some slot machines make use of Intellectual Property in their game selections, like Wheel of Fortune, Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka. The utilization of IP seems to be diminishing, though it’s not going away. Read more about IP in the attractions space in InPark issue 90.

There are a couple of trends affecting the gaming market that also are impacting attractions. Cashless systems at casinos are gaining popularity. Similar to how some parks have reduced or eliminated cash transactions, casinos are moving in the direction of virtual accounts that guests can use to access funds for gambling, both at slots and at table games. Read more about cashless systems for attractions here.

Casinos also face increasing competition from online gaming. Much like attractions continually work to attract guests away from in-home entertainment, casinos must work to keep the attention of gamblers who might find it easier to play online. Though major operators like MGM are also positioning themselves to take advantage of that market, gaming at home doesn’t deliver the food, entertainment and other ancillary revenue that are a big part of a resort casino’s balance sheet. Read more about “retail-tainment” here.

G2E returns to Las Vegas October 9-12, 2023.

Attendees walk the aisles at the 2022 Global Gaming Expo (G2E).


After a two-year hiatus in North America, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) SATE conference returned to the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) campus October 13-15. The event started with an evening mixer at the University’s School of Hospitality building. Food stations and entertainment were placed throughout the building, encouraging guests to circulate around and explore. Casino table games were available for lessons while a working test kitchen was home to an impressive pasta station and dining table. An expansive patio overlooked the colorful lights of the Las Vegas Strip.

The two-day conference, co-chaired by Shannon Martin and Greg Senner, covered a variety of topics, from the metaverse and evolving technologies to staffing shortages and effective storytelling. A panel celebrating the latest group of TEA Masters ended the first day of sessions.

An evening mixer at Illuminarium capped off the night. The immersive entertainment facility’s operators participated in a short panel talking about the technology and design involved in creating Illuminarium. [InPark has written extensively about Illuminarium, including in our IAAPA 2022 issue.]

Network opportunities continued during scheduled conference breaks and two outdoor lunches. To help facilitate, event emcee Brett Jackson encouraged attendees to find secret “witnesses” during each break, exchange business cards and get information to help solve a campus mystery: the abduction of UNLV’s campus wolf, Beauregard.

The formal SATE event ended with a presentation on the new MSG Sphere currently under construction in Las Vegas. The giant concert and special event venue will essentially be covered in giant domed LED screens inside and out when it opens, serving as a model for future MSG Spheres around the world.

TEA’s NextGen GibGab and educational event during SATE 2022

On Saturday, TEA’s NextGen group organized a GibGab event helping those new to the industry connect with vendors and potentially line up internships or jobs. A series of conversations with the TEA Masters and other industry leaders rounded out the day.

A location and dates have not yet been announced for SATE 2023.

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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