Raptors, zombies kick off gambling expo in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The world’s largest gambling conference got underway in Las Vegas on Tuesday 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 the 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.”

During a media briefing, 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 dominated 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,” runs through Thursday.

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Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier .

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