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A Fond Farewell

ICE bids adieu to the Earl's Court convention center in London

A Fond Farewell

Earl’s Court, the venerable London convention venue scheduled to be razed next year, bid goodbye to one of its steady tenants over the years, the International Casino Exposition. Now called ICE Totally Gaming, the largest gaming convention in Europe will move in 2013 to the Excel Center, a modern “purpose-built” facility. Although the amenities of the center are state-of-the-art, the distance from central London, where most of the city’s first-class hotels are located, is substantial—an expensive taxi fare or a very long tube ride.

Nonetheless, participants were focused last month on the matters at hand: a suddenly expansive gaming industry that brings challenges and opportunities to all who play a role.

Most of the interest focused on the convergence of land-based and online gaming. With the ruling from the U.S. Department of Justice late last year that sports betting was the only kind of online gaming that is strictly illegal in the U.S., exhibitors jockeyed for attention from the land-based casino companies. Although there were few U.S. companies in attendance, the products and services offered by a wide spectrum of online providers was impressive.

Learning Opportunities

The conferences at ICE, a new touch added over the past several years, examined those issues. Ron Goudsmit, chairman of the European Casino Association, as well as Holland Casinos, kicked off the ECA conference on Monday with an outline of what casinos in the European Union are facing when it comes to the expansion of VLTs, the rapidly improving gaming technology and the evolving regulations, both at the national level and at the European Commission level.

Technology played a big role in the conference, with sponsor IGT providing updates on how customers would be served in the future using mobile devices and online gaming, and why it is important to stay ahead of the curve when competition continues to increase.

Several land-based operators gathered for a session to discuss the impact of online gaming on their facilities. While not all of the operators were involved in online gaming at the current time, they were all hopeful that their casinos would participate in the system sometime in the future.

Other conferences at ICE included sessions on lotteries, cybercrime, mobile gaming, CRM and retention and more.

The American Gaming Association took advantage of the gathering of casino execs by hosting a second meeting of its Global Gaming Women group that was formed at G2E in October. More than 50 women attended a breakfast at London’s Playboy Club, with a panel of successful female executives offering their experience and wisdom. The panel included Jenny Williams of the British Gaming Commission, Monika Racek of the Novomatic Group of Companies, Olga Finkel of WH Law, Jan L. Jones of Caesars Entertainment and moderated by Judy Patterson of the AGA.

For the first time, the two groups of gaming attorneys, the International Masters of Gaming Law  and the International Association of Gaming Advisors, held joint functions that included a networking cocktail party, ICE seminars and a lunch for members.

Trade Show Floor

On the exhibit floor, there was continued growth of the i-gaming section, with many companies that had not exhibited before at ICE. Many new products and services were debuted and/or promoted for the first time in Europe. Novomatic presented its new Marilyn slot bank, using a worldwide gaming license from the estate of the late Marilyn Monroe.

Casino Technology revealed its new Penthouse slots in Europe for the first time and introduced a new system. IGT promoted its recently announced iCloud system that is expected to dramatically change the way gaming is conducted. Bally announced a partnership with Comtrade that will assist Bally with its online development services to expedite the conversion of Bally’s land-based slot portfolio to the online gaming environment. Aristocrat launched its new Queen of the Nile Legends DSAP (Double Standalone Progressive) in a wide-screen format.

So, the final ICE at Earl’s Court was bittersweet. Attendees and exhibitors alike say they will miss the old facility, but are anxiously awaiting a new ICE age starting next year at the Excel Center.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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