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August 22, 2014

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CES smaller this year

The 150-inch television has been packed away. Bill Gates has said goodbye. The geeks have flown home.

With that, another International Consumer Electronics Show has ended.

And if the traffic and crowds this year seemed a little less intense than in the past, it wasn't your imagination. The show that has ballooned in recent years into Las Vegas's most popular event was a little less popular this year.

According to figures released at the end of last week by the Consumer Electronics Association that runs the show, around 130,000 people attended this year's event. That's below the nearly 144,000 of 2007's show, 152,000 people of 2006, and 146,000 who attended CES in 2005.

The numbers might seem to enhance fears that some casino executives have recently expressed that a national economic slowdown could lead companies to send less employees to conferences here, and allow them smaller expense accounts to blow at resorts.

The attendance figures could also support the notion that show-goers are cutting back because Las Vegas hotel rooms have gotten too expensive. The Consumer Electronics Association, which runs the show, has pointed to those concerns in suggesting that the show might move to another city in a few years.

But people involved in the show say there's another explanation: CEA made a bigger effort this year to stop casual consumer electronics fans from attending, and took steps to limit attendance strictly to people working for companies that sell, buy, analyze, or write about consumer technology.

That's what accounted for the lower attendance, said CEA spokesperson Jenny Pareti.

MGM spokesperson Alan Feldman said the company will be looking for more indicators of the health of the conference business this year.

CES attendee spending at casinos "may be down a very small amount from last year, but that was a blockbuster year," said Feldman. "We're a little too early in the year to be able to see conclusively where the year is going to fall out."

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