Kate Chambers, Managing Director, Clarion Gaming, looks ahead to the forthcoming ICE London and explains why comparisons with Davos are flattering.
UK.- ICE 2017 was another record breaking event with 30,000 + visitors, 151 nations represented and more net space occupied by international gaming innovators than ever before.
Where do you go from that lofty position?
Well what you don’t do is sit back, take your foot off the pedal and wallow in a sea of self-congratulations. Of course, it’s gratifying to have met the vast majority of our objectives, for ICE to have grown for the sixth consecutive year and to have delivered on behalf of our stakeholders. It’s a cliché, but in my business you are only as good as your last show and that truism means that the focus has to be on how we address those areas which didn’t go to plan, to maximise on those that did and to add to the ICE London experience. It sounds a very simplistic approach, but our job is to continually improve and enhance the experience, which starts when people register to attend online and ends when they arrive back home. Enhancements can be macro, in terms of new features or sections, but they can also be smaller or incremental improvements. The key thing is to never stand still.
What macro changes can visitors expect to experience at ICE?
The most tangible are the addition of new sections for Payments and the Consumer Protection Zone, both of which are firsts for ICE London.
The ICE Payment Solutions Section, comprising 4,000sqm of space, will provide a focal point for international visitors wanting to meet and engage with the key innovators and thought leaders in the sector. The purpose of ICE is to showcase and reflect the dominant trends in gaming and payments is a case in point. We were approached by a number of leading players wanting to utilise ICE as a platform to reflect these innovations and to create a meeting point for all those international visitors with an interest in the latest technologies and advances. I am delighted that we have been able to respond to the needs of the industry in this way and I am confident the resource that we are putting behind the ICE Payment Solutions Section will be well received by visitors.
We will also be promoting the social responsibility message with the launch of the Consumer Protection Zone. The Zone will provide a focus for the social responsibility message and feature key organisations that are promoting social responsibility, as well as being a platform for presentations. The Zone is the latest in a series of social responsibility initiatives undertaken by Clarion Gaming, which includes the annual World Regulatory Briefing on Responsible Gambling Innovation, held in London in the Autumn, and the Responsible Gaming Academy training, run by the Totally Gaming Academy.
Wherever Clarion operates, social responsibility is one of the most important topics and that’s across both emergent and mature gaming markets. Although we are not part of the operating community, I believe strongly that we also have a responsibility to serve as a forum for discussion and knowledge exchange.
We will be creating an agenda with demos and presentations from regulators, providers and operators. We also hope to bring government officials, policy-makers and regulators to the Zone as part of the World Regulatory Assembly (WrA) and International Legislators’ Day programme. The industry has made important headway in helping to make gambling an entertainment experience, as opposed to a negative or destructive one, and there have been some really significant technology-driven advances in the fields of responsible gambling using data analytics. It’s totally appropriate that these are showcased at ICE London.
ICE London 2018 will comprise a record 43,500sqm of net space – what does this growth mean to the industry?
We have been very careful to grow ICE at a manageable pace and avoid the boom bust scenario you might associate with an overheating economy. While ICE 2018 is nearly twice the size of the 2012 edition, which was the last held at Earls Court, a lot of that growth has been facilitated by the move to ExCeL London and our ability to meet the needs of exhibitors. Our strategy, wherever we operate in the world, is to work with the industry to create events and opportunities that help meet business objectives. The expansion of ICE has been driven by demand and reflects the dynamics of the international market, which views London as the once-in-the-year opportunity to engage with a really significant and influential community of buyers and influencers, which in 2017 travelled to ICE from 151 jurisdictions. This is great news for gaming organisations who we know want a flagship event that showcases the world’s leading innovators from every gaming vertical. Gaming is a global industry and ICE is its global event.
You have announced the launch of ICE Africa: can you explain your thinking?
Our strategy has always been to partner with the industry and that’s exactly what we have done in Africa. After a successful experience on the continent, where we tested the water with our Gaming Africa event, we took the strategic decision to fast track our presence, transitioning the 2018 event into the first ICE Africa, which will comprise an exhibition and co-located ICE VOX style conference dedicated to the development of the domestic industry. Whilst the scale of ICE Africa will not be the same as ICE London, we will be bringing the same level of commitment, thinking, creativity and professionalism that has made ICE London the world’s favourite and most international gaming expo. ICE Africa will be an event where the industry can meet, network, see the very latest gaming innovations, share best practice and progress in a strategic and sustainable manner. The ICE Africa team is already in place and working with our stakeholders in order to deliver on our pledge to create a world class business event for the continent. Every business decision such as this comes with its own risks, but we have to be prepared to be bold and to act decisively. The industry is behind us and I’m confident that, providing we remain true to our brand vision and principles, ICE Africa will be a success.
Someone described ICE as the Davos of gaming – do you recognise that description?
I think it’s a very flattering description. Davos brings together the most influential economic and political leaders in the world. ICE London does a similar thing in so far as we host international gaming regulators, industry thought leaders, the CEOs of every major international gaming organisation, elected politicians and the vast majority of trade associations drawn from every continent. When an event develops momentum, these type of credentials start to come to the fore. If observers choose to refer to ICE London as the Davos of gaming, I’m certainly not going to object!
If ICE is the shop window for gaming, do you think it could have a bigger role in helping to shape the opinion of regulators and legislators?
That’s not really for me to say. My job, and that of my team, is to deliver a 360 degree take on the international gaming industry and to present it in an ultra-professional manner and in a way that stakeholders can feel proud of. Stakeholders already use ICE to showcase the credentials of the industry to a broad audience and we will always work to accommodate any initiatives they want to progress.
You launched your Ampersand Think Tank initiative at G2E Las Vegas. Why there and, more importantly, what is Ampersand?
We actually undertook a soft launch at our WrB Responsible Gambling Innovation event held in London in September. G2E gave us the opportunity to introduce it to an influential gaming audience and to generate some interest and traction ahead of ICE London. The aim is to make Ampersand the biggest think tank in gaming, comprising a representative cross-section of industry verticals, jurisdictions, job functions and channels. I envisage Ampersand working on a number of levels. It will enable us to validate ideas and concepts prior to launch, it will introduce a process and structure for customers to provide their feedback – both positive and negative – and it will enable the industry to make suggestions on how we can work more effectively to help in the development of sustainable gaming economies, particularly in emergent markets. We are always keen to explore new formats favoured by the industry and to receive suggestions for great new speakers and Ampersand will provide swift and direct access to the decision making process. It delivers a valuable opportunity to help shape event content. Industry professionals who agree to participate in Ampersand will receive a number of benefits in recognition of their time, including entry to The Lounge at ICE London, as well as access to intelligence reports and surveys produced by the team at Clarion Gaming.
How do you think Clarion Gaming is viewed within the broader Clarion family?
Clarion Gaming is an important part of the Clarion Events business comprising exhibitions, conferences, technical training as well digital and print information. Our events attract more than 50,000 customers annually in locations spanning every continent and, with ICE London, we have created the world’s most influential and international meeting place for the entire industry. The Clarion Gaming team has earned the respect of the other divisions within Clarion all of whom will take the opportunity to spend some time with us at ExCeL London in February.