What was the purpose of your recent trip to Las Vegas? Was it part of a broader strategy?
The big positive that I would like to share with G&M News’ readers is that ICE London 2023 will be a complete representation of the international industry, encompassing all of the gaming verticals that we have served for such a long time. We see our stakeholders as being life-time customers. We recognise and respect those brands supplying the land-based casino industry which decided not to participate in the 2022 edition of what remains to be the world’s most popular B2B gambling expo. We have kept in constant contact with our exhibitors and have been planning for their return for many, many months. Our visit to Las Vegas was part of our programme of engagement with our international customers and which help us to ensure that we deliver a relevant and powerful business-centric live event. All of the team is focussed on supporting the return of those brands which have made such an important and valuable contribution to the development of the ICE brand. The delivery of a full size, multi-dimensional, comprehensive dynamic edition of ICE is fantastic for the industry and, as a team, we cannot wait to welcome the many thousands of visitors who will be travelling to London from throughout the world.
While online gambling in the U.S. and LatAm is expanding, restrictions are growing in Europe. Based on your experience in the industry, how do you see these dynamics in those markets and how will ICE be a centre of debate of this reality with a positive focus on the future?
I always make it clear that my expertise is in delivering the very best version of ICE possible and giving the industry a platform or arena in which it can collaborate and help fashion the future. We work with a large number of trade and strategic bodies from every corner of the world and we have created the ICE Ambassador group, which serves as a sounding board for me and the senior team. This is a collection of thought leaders who could be described as ‘critical friends’ to the ICE brand. We consult with them and sense check ideas before implementation and, as such, they help us as our gambling industry experts. Sector-leading live events such as ICE London, which attract industry influencers and leaders, represent an unparalleled opportunity to witness the vision of the industry unfold and to be a part of that dynamic. ICE is all about the future and about looking beyond tomorrow.
How significant is the work that your company is doing in partnership with the European Casino Association; in particular, the summer symposium that you held?
We enjoy a highly positive relationship with the European Casino Association, an organisation that I would say is a critical friend. At the ICE – ECA Summer Symposium, we were able to draw on 1,000 years of combined industry experience located in a single room. The theme was Building a profitable and sustainable future for the casino industry. The day comprised a series of C-Level discussions using the Open Space model, a format that’s driven by the participants who determine the agenda to reflect the issues that are important to their businesses. Main topics were the adoption of cashless technology (including crypto and Blockchain), online and land-based convergence, casino digitisation, as well as diversity and inclusion. It was thought leadership of the highest level and, the very next day, we began the process of feeding the ideas into the planning process for ICE 2023. It was a really great initiative which we are replicating at G2E. We are indebted to European Casino Association Chairman, Per Jaldung, and his colleagues for helping to put the event together, and to Tracy Damestani, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for Ambassadeurs Group, who kindly hosted the Symposium.
ICE 2022 was a great trial by fire for Clarion as an organiser. While the health situation seems to have stabilised, how will you work to maintain a safe, healthy and sustainable environment?
I’m sure that I speak for every event organiser when I say that the number 1 objective is the responsibility that we have for looking after the health and welfare of our staff and our customers. We work extremely closely with the team at ExCeL London and our trade body, the Association of Exhibition Organisers. The COVID-19 situation is vastly different to what it was last year or even in the early part of 2022. We have all of the necessary processes in place and will abide by any regulations issued by the UK Government.
There are two key issues in the sector today: the importance of developing solid responsible gaming policies and the need to continue promoting diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI). How will ICE reflect these relevant subjects?
Every single discussion with every gambling regulator in the world is quite rightly punctuated by references to safer gambling. DEI is also super relevant for progressive businesses. I’m pleased to say that ICE London and the broader Clarion Gaming portfolio of brands are very much in-tune with these issues and topics. The Consumer Protection Zone (CPZ) will be at ICE for the fifth occasion and will serve as the focal point for discussions and product demonstrations that advance the industry’s safer gambling undertakings. Hosting not-for-profit safer gambling groups and suppliers whose main product centres on responsible gambling, the CPZ will also include a series of talks and demonstrations by experts who are at the forefront of consumer protection, research and practice. Besides, at the last three editions of ICE London, gambling industry sponsors have raised a total of £146,000 which have been distributed to charities. The CPZ has grown in size and now occupies a high-profile presence close to the main boulevard at ExCeL London. The ICE Consumer Protection Zone has been shortlisted for the VIXIO GamblingCompliance Global Regulatory Awards in two categories: Innovation of the Year and Responsible Approach to Advertising and Marketing, which represents a powerful recognition of the work that’s been on-going since 2018 to grow the CPZ in terms of both physical size and importance to the industry. Moreover, KPMG and the Clarion Gaming team behind the iGB Most Influential Women in Gaming joined forces to deliver a day of education, networking, and mentorship at ICE London 2022 which focused on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) topics, comprising Diversity and Inclusion. We have been long-time supporters of progressive organisations such as All-In Diversity and Global Gaming Women. ICE has never and will never operate in isolation and has an obligation and a duty to leverage the power of the brand in reference to big social issues which impact the gaming space.
Although there are still a few months until February 2023, how is the entire Clarion team preparing and what are your expectations (including the new addition of Andy Ventris as Event Director) for next year’s show?
From my experience travelling and meeting with our customers, the passion that exists for ICE and its importance to the entire industry is humbling, as is the excitement regarding the return of ALL the land-based brands that were not present earlier this year. The team’s first challenge was to get ICE 2022 over the line: the show was a great success and represented the biggest gaming expo since the last pre-pandemic edition of ICE held in February 2020. From 2022, the team moved almost without pausing onto implementing the programme for 2023. Putting together an event the size of ICE London is a huge team effort, and one which can only be delivered by having really skilled professionals such as Andy bringing their experience and expertise to the task. As every day passes, the sense of expectation increases as we focus on delivering what many people view as the greatest gaming show on Earth. February will be the first full edition of ICE for three-long years and it’s simply not to be missed!