GAMA shifts 2025 Expo dates after ‘blowing past projections’ for space needed, signs one-year Kentucky extension

The Game Manufacturer’s Association has shifted next year’s GAMA Expo trade show a week earlier than usual due to a huge growth in attendance this year – and has agreed to keep the event in Kentucky for an extra year despite its own reservations over remaining in the state.

GAMA said 2024’s event was its largest to date, with attendance up 37% to more than 2,700, and the number of exhibitors jumping 50% to 300.

The organisation said when it booked its new home in Louisville in 2019, it looked at historical growth from its time in Reno and used that for projections for 2024 to 2026 – but added that it “blew past that projection with this year’s show”.

It said, “If we stayed with the original March 3 to 7 dates, we would have had a much smaller footprint than we had this year when we were able to add last minute space to accommodate the growth we were seeing via registrations.”

The date shift to February 23 to 27 helps Gama EXPO avoid the New York Toy Fair, which is being held from March 1 to 4 next year, and Las Vegas-based trade show Toy Fest between February 19 and 21.

GAMA added that it had agreed to a request to sign a one-year extension with The Galt House Hotel & KICC in Louisville, Kentucky in the wake of the date shift, out of respect for the “serious effort” it took for the venue to move already contracted groups.

That decision is a surprise one given GAMA admitted last year that it had looked into scrapping the move to Kentucky in the wake of anti-LGBTQ laws passed by the state – but said at the time that the $1.8m cancellation cost would have had a “lethal impact” on the organisation.

GAMA Expo completed the last of four years in Reno, Nevada in April 2023, following multiple years of events in Las Vegas.

The GAMA board said last June that members had been questioning the latest rehoming in the wake of Kentucky passing a suite of anti-LGBTQ laws, including a ban on transgender medical treatment for those under 18.

The SB 150 bill also restricts discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, allows teachers to ignore pupils’ preferred pronouns, and prevents trans students from using bathrooms, lockers rooms or shower rooms of their affirmed gender.

A statement from GAMA last June said, “After analysis of fiscal limitations to canceling the 2024-2026 agreement, the decision was made by the executive director to move forward with our existing contract while expediting approval of the Site Selection Committee to research future locations.”

A petition has been launched calling on GAMA to move its 2027 Expo out of Kentucky, saying the decision to stay put in the state “puts women and LGBTQ+ GAMA members in danger and will reduce their attendance at the show”. That petition has received 67 signatures to date.

GAMA said of the 2025 date shift, “We understand this change affects everyone’s schedule, but please know, this decision was not made lightly. It was made with the best interest of our members and the overall success of the show in mind.

“Also, while we agreed to the one year extension, we are committed to supporting the efforts of the member-led Site Selection Committee process which is already looking for our next location once the current contract expires in 2027.”

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