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IGE: Shaken Not Stirred

The 2009 International Gaming Expo in London was perhaps the most varied gaming trade show in the relatively brief history of the genre.

Besides the traditional, land-based casino suppliers-which originally gave the show its hard-to-forget acronym, ICE, for “International Casino Exhibition”-the IGE featured a large number of very busy stands from the online casino sector.

Live and online sports betting and bingo were also well represented, joined for the first time by numerous versions of the automated poker table, whose suppliers seem to be multiplying as fast as did those producing automatic roulettes not so long ago.

And last but not least, there were the higher-end brands of street market machines, which in the genesis of the London show preceded even the casino exhibitors, when the event was dominated by video games and rides for the arcade and amusement park sector.

Although the organizer of IGE, Clarion Gaming, as of press time had not yet released the official numbers, the final tally of exhibitors came in somewhere between 350 and 400.

On the visitor side, however, it was clear to see from the first two days of the show that the numbers for visitor attendance would be down from those of the previous year. The organizers were hoping for another record year, but the same sickly economy that had helped discourage visitors to G2E in Las Vegas this past November kept the crowds relatively thin in London as well.

Going by appearance and “feel” only, the primarily casino section of the show seemed to have between 10 percent and 20 percent fewer attendees than the 2008 show. Whereas in past years the flow of visitors had remained steady throughout the Wednesday-traditionally the busiest of the three days-this year the crowd was already beginning to thin out by 4 p.m., two hours before the show would close for the night.

However, there was no such slowdown in the online gaming section of the floor. Perhaps it was the location of the ICEi Bar, sponsored again by Microgaming, right in the midst of the online stands. But off-the-record questions confirmed what the eyes suspected, namely that the online gaming world continues to draw interest from investors, from inside and outside the gaming industry.

Still, even with attendee numbers apparently down, some casino suppliers reported that the serious visitors were still present. The same phenomenon was evident 10 weeks earlier, at G2E in Las Vegas.

The sad irony of the show was that, in a year of such economic uncertainty, there were so many new and potentially transformative technologies and products being introduced.