It’s been a bit more than a year since you took on this new position at Clarion and also 6 years since you arrived to Clarion. The company have had to overcome various challenges, but finally achieved its goal. A few days before the start of ICE London, what’s your analysis on this exhausting year? How relevant has been the tirelessly effort of your entire work team and the support, in general, of the industry for the event?
‘Together never felt so good’, the creative strap line that has been deployed in support of ICE London 2022 has never felt as appropriate as it does now. Two extremely long years (26-months, to be more accurate) have passed since the last edition of ICE London closed its doors and bade farewell to the global legions of buyers. No one could have predicted what was to follow. A global pandemic that paralysed the entire world followed by the gut-wrenching and appalling events that we witness unfolding in Ukraine. Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine not least those industry personalities and companies that cannot be with us. Reflecting on where the industry is two-years down the line, it is clear how much impact COVID-19 has had on the land-based sector. In many countries, it was the first sector to be forced to close and the last to be permitted to re-open. The return of in-person events could not have occurred soon enough. There’s something really positive about being able to sit down with colleagues, to share a drink or a meal and to talk face-to-face about opportunities, solutions, collaborations and what the industry does in order to rehabilitate and recover. This is a people industry and people-based sectors thrive on the oxygen of social interaction. ICE has always set the tone for the year-ahead and the stands at ExCeL will be brimming with the many hundreds of new products and services being launched in London and that have the potential to transform the industry. Significantly, over 3,000 meetings have been requested between visitors and exhibitors via the My ICE Gateway app, which is a really positive indication that industry professionals are attending ICE to do business. My aspiration is for our customers to leave ExCeL London in a positive, upbeat and confident mood, equipped with all of the ideas, energy, imagination and determination to put the last two years behind them and plan for a prosperous year. ICE London remains the event where ideas are formed, new strategies formulated, and the future is written. This has been a huge team effort and I could not be more grateful and proud of the Clarion Gaming team that has got ICE London and the co-located iGB Affiliate London across the line. To achieve this has been monumental and I would also like to extend my huge thanks to the international community of exhibitors for all of their unstinting support.
This comeback has been highly anticipated by everyone in the sector. If any executive reviews the complete agenda of this exhibition, nothing seems to have been left out of the usual offer: great speakers and excellent conferences of the ICE VOX cycle and the Masterclasses, more than 400 exhibitors, an increase in registered visitors, the iGB Affiliate London event, key meetings like the WrB and the ICC, the Consumer Protection Zone, the ICE Pitch, the Esports Arena, the new initiative of the ICE Hosted Meeting programme, and so much more. How would you ponder this incredible proposal for the 2022 edition? Will there be an online streaming for those who cannot attend?
I think it is an incredible proposal, as you put it, and thank-you for highlighting the size and scope of the ICE London 2022 offer. When the features are presented in this way, it demonstrates exactly what visitors will have access to after such a long time without the major show for the global industry. We have worked hard and in partnership with the industry to put on an event that’s worthy of the ICE brand and I’m delighted with the outcome. Of course, we recognise that there will be industry professionals who are unable to travel to London. For audiences at home, there will be multiple options for connecting to ICE 2022. On Monday, April 11th, International Casino Conference will be broadcast live via ICE365.com, followed by a three-day schedule of exclusive interviews, highlights, shots of the show floor and presentations from the ICE365 Live studio. This feature, new for 2022, provides rolling coverage of everything happening at ExCeL London, via ICE365.com.
Although the impact of COVID-19 seems to have reduced globally, of course, care measures are still necessary. In that sense, what health policies should visitors respect and how is ExCeL London preparing to receive them around this issue?
Clarion has taken a proactive approach to COVID-19, contributing to the drafting and refinement of the widely adopted ‘All Secure Risk Assessment Framework,’ a best-practice guide for events for professionals. Our policy and that of ExCeL London is to follow the rules set-out by the UK Government. We have in-place a process that allows us to ramp up our response status. We do not require attendees to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test. We encourage the wearing of masks for those people who choose to.
Reality of the sector shows that both in Latin America and in the United States there is a phenomenal advance in online gaming and sports betting. Precisely around LatAm, ICE will have an exclusive focus, with talks, networking events and other unmissable options. Why is this region of such importance to you as gaming organizers?
We invest a lot of time speaking with the industry in order to understand the issues, topics and market dynamics that are impacting their business. LatAm as a region was at the top or near the top of the agenda for many of those that we spoke with and, as a consequence, features prominently in the ICE London 2022 experience. This kind of conversations ensure ICE continues to meet the business needs of the global industry.
How will the fair deal with topics as current as responsible gaming and respect for diversity, inclusion and gender equality?
The Consumer Protection Zone (CPZ) is a central feature of ICE London. It has a new prominent position in close proximity to the central boulevard and features 14 organisations comprising leading charities Gordon Moody, GamCare, YGAM, Responsible Gambling Council and Gamstop together with suppliers including Future Anthem, Gamblewise, Mindway AI, Casino Guru, TruNarrative, BeBettor, W2 and Crucial Compliance. Under the leadership of Ewa Bakun, Clarion Gaming’s Director of Industry Insight and Engagement, this is the biggest and highest profile presence since the Consumer Protection Zone was introduced to the show floor in 2018, when it had eight exhibitors. Clarion Gaming is fund-raising for the third time through the CPZ. In 2019, it raised £35,000 rising to £65,000 at the last edition of ICE in 2020. ICE London provides insight on all of the topical issues impacting the industry, and safer gambling punctuates every conversation. This particularly responds to the publication of the UK Government’s White Paper on gambling. The Consumer Protection Zone isn’t the only place for visitors to talk and learn about consumer protection. The show features a Responsible Gambling Masterclass, as part of ICE VOX, with the CPZ theatre opening with talks un the afternoon of Tuesday, April 12th. There will be opportunities for industry professionals to learn from experts and discuss consumer protection, sustainability and industry reputation throughout the three days of what is the world’s most influential event for the international B2B gambling industry. We are also using the platform provided by ICE and iGB Affiliate London to issue an open invitation to women working in the gaming industry to be part of the launch of ASCEND, the new mentorship initiative created to provide a network of support, as well as guidance on personal and professional development. The launch will take the form of a networking buffet comprising hosted round tables and will be held on Wednesday, April 13th, at the ICC Capital Suite (12.45 – 14.30 hours). The ASCEND programme will help mentees working across the entire gaming ecosystem to enhance their leadership skills, gain confidence and network with other like-minded women. The intention is to use the launch event to listen to the experiences of women working in gaming, and, in the process, ensure that ASCEND addresses the issues that matter to them and that will help navigate the next steps in their career paths. The plan is to create an ASCEND Board of Female Founder members, supported by an Advisory Board which will help to shape terms of reference.
As the person in charge of leading the team of the show’s organization, how do you see yourself on April 15th, once the event is over: a) with an ice pack on your feet and sleeping; b) already thinking about next year’s edition; c) resting and preparing to enjoy a roasted lamb with your family on Easter Sunday lunch, or d) all of the above options together?
I think it’s fair to say that I will be ‘relaxing’ with friends, family and colleagues. We will be taking the team out to say thank-you for all of their dedication and professionalism, which has been humbling. Planning for 2023 started a long time ago and, to a certain extent, we have seen ICE 2022 and ICE 2023 as two landmarks in the same campaign. Having the industry firing on all cylinders will be wonderful and something that we are 100% focussed on delivering at ICE 2023.