January 17, 2022 Conference

From the Top: As ICE postponed, organizers stay ready

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Officials had Covid-19 protocols in place, still championing importance of in-person events. The new London ICE dates are 12-14 April.

Covid has affected every part of our lives the past two years and print magazines are no exception. Gaming America had a tidy preview of ICE London all ready to go in our January/February issue, when news broke that the show would be postponed from the first three days of February until dates TBD in late spring. Because so much of the discussion between Michael Bartlett and Stuart Hunter, Managing Director at Clarion Gaming, focused on health and safety protocols – and the importance of the gaming industry getting together for in-person conferences – it still makes for a relevant read ahead of April's potential show.

G2E in Las Vegas required every attendee to supply proof of vaccination and all persons had to wear masks at all times in conference areas... will ICE have similar restrictions? If so, what types?

Obviously Covid protocols must have the flexibility to be able to respond to what is a dynamic and rapidly changing scenario. In line with current [as of early December] UK Government advice, we will be requiring everyone attending ICE London to demonstrate either a full vaccination record, a recent negative test result or recent recovery certificate. UK-based visitors can use their NHS Covid Pass and international visitors can use the equivalent from their country of origin. Printed paper certificates will also be accepted.

There are two testing centers in close proximity to the ExCeL; at London City Airport and at the O2 Arena. Our team is also investigating having our own testing center on-site, details of which we will update online.

Several of the companies I spoke with at G2E were planning to make ICE their next conference... Does ICE normally get a lot of folks to come over from the US?

One of the stand-out characteristics of ICE London is its internationalism. The last edition featured exhibitors from 65 countries and welcomed a total of 155 nationalities. While the majority of visitors are from the UK as host nation, and continental Europe as the nearest geographical neighbor, the ability to see every gaming vertical in one place means ICE London attracts senior gaming professionals from throughout the world, including those from the US. Interestingly, we saw a significant early spike in attendee registrations from the US compared to the last ICE event in 2020, indicative of the interest in attending what will be the first truly global gaming trade show for two years.

Will the attendee count for exhibitors and visitors be the same as 2019 and in previous years?

Some of our long-standing customers won’t feel able to travel to London and this is something we totally respect and understand fully. Although we cannot predict how the response to Covid will impact attendance, what we can say with absolute certainty is the positive, upbeat and optimistic mindset that exists within the ICE London community. The Clarion Gaming team is spending a huge amount of time reaching out to its clients and reaching out to the visitor community, simply to see how things are progressing and how business is shaping up.

In addition, we have close contact with upwards of 50 international trade associations and representative bodies such as the European Casino Association, and of course we are able to track the registration data against that of previous years. Taking all of this into account we are seeing great positivity about the return of in-person events and in particular the return of ICE London.

In the events sector, there’s a definite and pronounced move away from the use of attendance figures as the measure of whether a business-to-business show has been successful or not. For example, we could easily add 30%-40% to our audited attendance figures if we relaxed the business-to-business only ruling, but it clearly would not make that edition a “better” or “more successful” show.

To move away from the raw data of attendance, we are looking at measuring the quality of the experience and the level of advocacy, which essentially relates to the propensity of attendees to recommend ICE London to colleagues. If you have 40,000 attendees but only 10% valued the experience – that’s a long way from being a good show and the Event Director would probably find him/herself shown the door marked Exit!

Let’s talk about excitement and energy as it relates to ICE: If anyone was put off by the vaccine requirement for G2E, it didn’t show. Judging by the ICE website, officials are expecting a similar vibe. Are you getting any feedback as people register?

'Together never felt so good,' which is the theme of our creative in support of ICE London 2022, really captures the mood of the industry. At iGB Live!/iGB Affiliate Amsterdam, which we organized at the end September, the level of excitement was tangible. You could hear it in people’s voices and see it in their faces. There’s no doubt there’s a strong appetite for the return of in-person events [even if we now have to wait a little longer after the delay].

To reflect the excitement of the return of in-person, we are also making our biggest ever marketing and communications investment, maximizing the number of touch-points the brand has with the international industry; attempting to answer any misgivings, working alongside our exhibitors and amplifying the 'Together never felt so good' core campaign message. We are also investing in the 'onsite experience,' courtesy of enhanced feature content, new feature content and enhanced networking via our MYICE digital networking tool.

One person at G2E told me the show attracted more top-level executives than usual because the 2020 version of the conference had been cancelled... are you expecting a similar turnout?

Registration was tracking ahead of where we were at the same stage of the campaign in support of ICE 2020. Drilling down into who is registering for ICE London, we are definitely seeing more decision makers and more of gaming’s C-suite signing up to be part of the ICE experience earlier than ever before.

What are you expecting to be the big themes of this year's ICE?

A distinguished member of the international gambling industry famously described the ICE London show floor as' $bn of thinking' under one roof. That’s stuck with me because it really sums up why so many members of the international industry choose to come to London. Innovators timetable product launches to be debuted at ICE London, and the show has a proud record of having showcased all of the groundbreaking products and services that have transformed the sector. That commitment to innovation covers every gaming vertical, encompassing both online/mobile and land-based.

Without wishing to sound glib or to talk in generalisms, visitors to London will have access to everything that’s new across every sector, whether it is slots, table games, cashless gaming or new technology. One of the really intriguing areas, and one that we have focused on, is the link between betting and esports. Esports was introduced to the ICE London show floor in 2020 and was subsequently deployed to iGB Live! in Amsterdam earlier this year. The statistics in terms of esports’ audience reach and the sheer size of the esports betting market are immense.

Our job is to facilitate business growth and opportunity for our stakeholders and to do this we have employed a team of experts led by Will Harding, our head of esports and assisted by Jamie Coles, who has joined us from Red Bull. For ICE London 2022 we have pulled out all of the stops to secure the iconic Hyper X Esports Truck, aka “Big Betty,” to form the main stage for the professional players and keynote speakers who will be appearing at the show. Essentially, the 21-meter long classic American-style truck is an arena on wheels. It unfolds into a fully equipped esports studio and main stage, enabling us to reflect the culture, theatre and appeal of the esports phenomenon, which will be explained courtesy of the keynote speakers who will be sharing their insight with our B2B audience. Esports is going to be one of a number of really compelling features at the show and which set the ICE London experience apart from other events on the gaming industry calendar.

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