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ICE London an Excellent and Emotionally Charged Celebration

Stuart Hunter, Managing Director of Clarion Gaming, explains why the record-breaking edition of ICE London 2023 is such an essential and to-be-noticed event for the entire industry.

 Undoubtedly, ICE London has been the leading gaming event in the world for over a decade. How have you been able to sustain the momentum? 

Our strategy is to always work with the industry and sectors we serve. We are in constant contact with our customers, we have an ongoing consultation process with stakeholders throughout the world, and after each event, we commission independent research which goes beyond the simple ‘how did we do’ questions to identify trends and the direction of travel. We are fortunate to have the support of our ICE Ambassadors, a group of industry thought leaders whom we call on to sense-check our thinking. They give their time free of charge and ensure that ICE continues to meet the demands and business needs of the industry. If you work with the industry, listen to the industry and act in the best interests of the industry, I don’t think you can go too far wrong.

Stronger Together is the theme for this year’s event; what informed that, and what does Clarion Gaming intend to achieve with that? 

We’ve got several themes, all of which pivot on the word ‘Together’ – Stronger Together, Better Together, Create Together, Build Together etc. It’s about what the industry can do together and in unity, as it will be when the 623 exhibitors from 68 nations/gaming jurisdictions come together at ExCeL London. It’s a fantastic prospect, and the team at Clarion Gaming cannot wait!

 What are you doing separately this year that makes ICE London 2023 different from the previous ones? 

The foundation stones upon which ICE is built remain the same. They are to provide a professional environment in which game creators and operators worldwide can come together and do business. We must keep the proposition fresh, exciting and relevant, ensuring that the show floor is representative of the industry and that we are open to new ideas and suggestions. Last summer, the Gambling Business Group approached us to create an at-show feature dedicated to the street sector. We listened to what they had to say, scoped out how it could work and collaborated with the GBG to bring its vision to life. It will feature a programme of activities dealing with critical issues, including the far-reaching work that operators are undertaking on the delivery of responsible gambling, the use of technology in street operations, including digital payments and the deployment of facial recognition, recruitment, retention and staff development and the use of contemporary retailing disciplines to enhance the customer journey. I know the Gambling Business Group will seek to meet with the governmental agencies that engage with the industry and will be inviting the many international regulators who attend ICE London to engage with the business leaders who are active in the street sector.

 I read a report that the big suppliers pulled out of ICE London 2022 are back. What did you do to convince them to come back? 

The pandemic was a huge issue for our customers as it was for us. Due to Covid we were forced to move the 2022 edition of ICE to April on the only dates available to host an event the size of ICE. We fully recognize why those dates did not work for some of our exhibitors and had been working with them to plan for their return. The 2023 edition of ICE is the biggest ever, occupying 51,466 square meters of stand space. The previous best of 49,690 sqm was set in 2020, the last ICE to take place pre-Covid. Whilst ICE London 2022 was a tremendous success, nothing compares with the return of a full-scale edition of ICE featuring all major supplier brands to the land-based sector. Having ExCeL bursting with the creativity and energy which drives the international gaming industry is a fantastic prospect. All industry sectors are looking forward to participating in a full-size, dynamic ICE

on its traditional dates.

After the pandemic, there was a change of guard at Clarion Gaming, and you became the Managing Director. Since you came in, l have noticed that you cancelled many of the shows you organised in other jurisdictions. Are we likely to see a return soon?

It was undoubtedly a challenging period to pick up the reins. Still, in some ways, the vast challenges created the opportunity and time to get closer to the industry and our customers, which is paramount to how we run Clarion Gaming. We took a position at that time to focus on our core brands, which remains a crucial focus for us. So, all of our energy is directed towards the events that have the maximum reach, which includes ICE, IGB

"ICE london"

Affiliate London and IGB Live in Amsterdam. That being said, we have also been working on an exclusive launch in North America with our IGB Live brand and our partners, the Indian Gaming Association to provide a first-of-its-kind event which brings together sports betting, online gaming, tribal gaming and affiliates. This is planned for December 2023 in New York.

Key Industry meetings and sessions were held at ICE London 2022, but none focused on Africa, a key emerging market. We in Africa are not too pleased with this.

The content for ICE in 2022 had to be adapted to suit the smaller number of countries in attendance due to the pandemic, but 2023 has bounced back to ensure the countries and opportunities in Africa are again a key focus. The World Regulatory Briefing looks at global trends in developing markets, so markets across Africa are part of that discussion in a macro sense. Velex Group is also doing a presentation on Entering New Markets, offering insights into localizing your operations with payments and licensing across several African markets. Plus, we have roundtables focused on Rwanda, South Africa, and Zimbabwe throughout the week. Lastly, we have the regulatory bodies in attendance at ICE VOX from Botswana, Nigeria, Malawi, South Africa, and Rwanda, with more likely to join.

Aside from the sessions and meetings, we want ICE Africa to be back because the two editions held in Johannesburg, South Africa, opened up gaming in Africa. How soon are we likely to see that happen? 

ICE Africa was a significant event for Clarion and the industry; whilst there are no immediate plans for its return, we continue to explore ways to facilitate opportunities across this region.

Brazil is the biggest gaming market in Latin America. However, the sports betting law, which most operators and suppliers thought would be passed, was not to be. You agree with me that this is a huge disappointment. Did you see it coming?  Are you upbeat that the situation might change when the new President resumes? 

Our expertise is in delivering the best possible environment for all sectors of the industry from all parts of the world to come together, do business and plan for the future, including opening up new jurisdictions. We don’t get directly involved in gaming politics but provide an environment for lobbying and debate.

Finally, what do you want to achieve at this year’s ICE London?

ICE is all about making those connections with people and organizations that can make a real difference to a business. Our job is to ensure that we create the right chemistry, mix and environment to achieve that. Visitors know that when they invest to be part of the ICE experience, they do so safely in the knowledge that their week in London will be pivotal to their year. The common denominator, whether they are an operator from South America, a machine developer from Europe, a regulator from Australia or a safer gambling charity working out of London, is the power that ICE has to help stakeholders make the connections that power the industry. ICE visitors will have access to a dynamic schedule of events delivering opportunities to connect and engage as soon as they arrive at ExCeL London. When they do, they will have access to 623 exhibiting companies drawn from 68 countries, and they will be able to participate in the award-winning Consumer Protection Zone, the ICE Esports Arena, the High Street Hub, the International Casino Conference, World Regulatory Briefing and the ICE VOX Masterclass programme. ICE is set to be an excellent, and I think, an emotionally charged celebration of the global industry and an experience that’s not to be missed!

ICE London, 7th – 9th February, ExCeL London, is the biggest b2b gambling industry event in the world and features games creators, distributors, operators, retailers, innovators, trade associations, strategic bodies and regulators – representing every gaming vertical. To join the global gaming community and gather ideas, connect with like-minded industry peers and identify new opportunities visit: www.icelondon.uk.com

John Bamidele
John Bamidele
John Bamidele is a gaming consultant in Africa, a content writer and a communication expert. He has been a journalist for two decades and an editor.

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