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Roundtable: The Future of ICE

By - 1 March 2023

Following Clarion’s announcement prior to the event, speculation was rife at the ExCeL about where the event should be held after 2024 – Barcelona, London, Madrid or Paris? Jo Purvis, Chris Nikolopoulos, Andreas Koeberl and Dinos Stranomitis share their thoughts.

What do you think has led to London appearing to fall from grace as the host city?

Jo Purvis, Director of Key Accounts and Marketing UK, Blueprint Gaming: I think the cost is becoming an issue for many. A lot of the exhibitors aren’t UK-based and so have to accommodate high numbers of staff and hotel prices are getting out of hand.

You used to be able to stay close to ExCeL for less than £300 per night but now it’s well over £500. The costs of shipping equipment into a post-Brexit UK are also a big consideration.

Dinos Stranomitis, COO, Altenar: First and foremost, London is a great location for the whole world. However, with Brexit, it has made life difficult for businesses to interact with mainland Europe. To me, it looks like the main reason is down to financial and commercial aspects.

In addition to this, there has been word that ICE 2022 last year wasn’t as big as expected and revenue may have been down due to this. While that may have been recouped this year, it could certainly affect future projections.

Chris Nikolopoulos, Chief Commercial Officer, Betby: It looks to be the end of an era. I have been used to going to London every year and I can’t lie, I will miss it should there be a change. I believe the United Kingdom’s policy with regards to allowing people to enter the country is a key reason for the possibility of this change of location, it certainly isn’t easy for many.

Visa requirements in the UK are generally harder than in other European countries and after Brexit, free movement is not applied anymore to EU, EEA or Swiss national ID holders as well.

Andreas Koeberl, CEO, BetGames: Probably the fallout from Brexit. I used to live in London for two years and it is an amazing, diverse, multi-national city with a unique vibe. It is a shame how much Brexit has negatively impacted it. ICE 2023 clearly showed that London as a host city is still a brilliant choice.

The four-city shortlist comprises Barcelona, London, Madrid and Paris – please rank in order of preference and explain your choices.

Dinos: I believe that the host city of an event such as ICE needs to be a hub, not only in terms of business but also how you approach it. The truth is that the UK is traditionally a good hub so the decision to move away from London needs to be taken into consideration.

I would also recommend Madrid as its airport can connect many places around the world. In order, my number one is London, followed by Madrid, Barcelona and then Paris, a city where it would be expensive to hold ICE.

Andreas: London, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris. While the other cities on the list are great places in their own right, none have the edge on London for hosting such a large-scale event for our industry. People know the area and the surrounding infrastructure is now better than ever.

Chris: Well considering that we are talking about some alternative options, I will start in reverse and place London last in this list. Barcelona is an interesting choice as a business centre and is also a very beautiful city but there are already some well-established iGaming events here, therefore I will place third in my list.

Paris would be a great option but I am not sure whether the local regulations for example would allow dozens of Curacao or Malta based providers and operators to exhibit there and based on that I would rank this second.

I believe Madrid can combine all elements required to produce a successful exhibition. It is a beautiful city with a vibrant iGaming community, and I am sure it would be a welcome decision by the whole industry. I should add, no matter where ICE will be hosted in 2024, I am certain it will be a blast as always.

Jo: London, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris. Despite the costings, London is still the favourite for me. Selfishly there’s the fact that we’re a UK-based company and we just wouldn’t be able to afford to send the same numbers of people to a show outside of the country. Paris is a non-starter given the transport issues and lack of industry heritage there.

Do you think that a move away from London will damage the event’s standing in the industry?

Jo: Initially, the volume of visitors might be down but would come back eventually. There are also many UK companies in iGaming, particularly operators, and the numbers attending would naturally drop.

I just think people are settled with London as a venue and now the Elizabeth line has opened, it makes travel to ExCeL so much easier and hotel options are wider.

Andreas: ICE is connected to London and probably moving away would cause a bit of a ‘reboot’ to the entire format. ICE London is an institution, and it might take years to re-establish this unique vibe that is undoubtedly amplified by its host city.

Chris: No, I don’t think so. As mentioned above, it was good to be in London every year but that doesn’t mean ICE should remain there forever.

London may be one of the world’s most iconic cities, but Clarion should ensure there is a secure infrastructure for everyone to be able to participate with minimal hassle. If London proves troublesome for many people to get to and attend, then they have to look at other options.

I don’t believe the event needs to be intrinsically linked to London, even if it is a great city. More importantly, ICE needs to be one of the most well-organised exhibitions in our industry.

Dinos: I don’t think a move away from London will damage the event’s standing in the industry at all, but some British companies may not be inclined to travel to a new venue in continental Europe as it is very convenient for them to visit the ExCeL, so much so, it can even be called an industry tradition.

Clarion has stated that each city will make a formal bid to host the event between 2025 and 2029. Do you think the venue should rotate each year?

Chris: I think that sort of rotation between host venues can be extremely beneficial. Cities will look to compete with one another and provide the best experiences both inside and outside of the exhibition and that can only be a good thing for brands and attendees.

If something like this happens though, early planning and accurate timing will be essential to avoid logistical and organisational issues.

Jo: No. I think the organisational logistics would be more difficult, having to change everything and get used to a new setup each year would be restrictive. People know what they’re doing now; changing every year would increase the workload.

It isn’t just the show itself but knowing the surrounding areas greatly assists with networking events and other meetings in the city. Having to research that every year would be a nightmare.

Dinos: I don’t think it is very convenient to keep rotating. It is better to keep the event in one place every year. Cities that haven’t been mentioned above that could be good ideas to host the expo, would include Vienna and Munich. Both airports are in close proximity to the cities and might not necessarily be as expensive as London or Paris.

Andreas: I don’t see much value in that. Organising such a massive event comes with a lot of headaches for both the organiser and exhibitors and for most suppliers – it is THE event of the year.

Adding artificial barriers by re-organising established logistical processes every year is probably not helpful for Clarion to grow its format. Furthermore, you already have large iGaming events across Europe in Barcelona, Amsterdam and Malta, so I don’t see the benefit of moving ICE.

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