The 2024 edition of ICE will be Stuart Hunter’s fourth show as managing director of Clarion Gaming, and it’s safe to say that each year has been entirely distinct from the last—the 2020 version wrapped up moments before the Covid-19 pandemic derailed the global economy and ultimately canceled the 2021 show; 2022 saw a drastically reduced show with little land-based participation; and 2023 was a record-breaking resurgence. Now, Hunter and the rest of the Clarion team will look to outdo themselves again before ICE makes its big move to Barcelona in 2025. He spoke with GGB Managing Editor Jess Marquez via Zoom in December.
GGB: ICE will be moving to Barcelona in 2025, meaning that this will be the last show in London, at least for now. What has it been like putting things together this year?
Hunter: I feel like we’ve put everything under a lens over the last couple of years to really enhance and focus on what we do for the industry, and this year is no different. We ran a great show earlier this year and it broke a lot of records, so we’re competitive upon ourselves really to make sure that we try and better that. But we will obviously not ignore the opportunity to give a nod and thank London and the U.K. for its home for the last 86 years, while also passing the baton over to Barcelona, which we’re hugely excited about. Lots of little secrets up our sleeve, but yes, it’s going to be memorable.
The theme for this year’s show is “ICE Gives You More.” Could you elaborate on what that embodies and why you chose it?
We select the themes based on the mood of the industry and what we see as the dominant themes. And as ICE is such an international event, we tend to make sure our messaging has an element of simplicity to it, because not everyone speaks English. This year’s campaign is off the back of the slightly more emotive campaigns that we’ve done recently, which were really about gathering people back together again. The “more” element refers to both quantitative and qualitative outcomes that we expect our visitors and our exhibitors to receive as a result of attending ICE.
What can we expect from the conference and speaker lineup this year?
The spread and the mix of content for the ’24 show, I think is probably the best we’ve done—certainly the best I’ve seen in the four years of my tenure. We have the World Regulatory Briefing, our International Casino Conference on Monday, and we’ve launched our esports betting conference as well this year, and that seems to be very well received. So there’s those main three platforms, and then you’ve got our Deep Dive practical workshops. We don’t want to take people off the trade show floor if they’ve got a lot of business and connections to do, so the multitude of workshops is something that people can participate in for two, three, four hours in a day, and then pick up the networking or the trade show floor element of it.
What are you expecting on the exhibitor side—what’s the mix of land-based and online exhibitors?
It’s really a representation of what’s happening in the industry. We always had a kind of internal reference point pre-Covid, which was ensuring the event remains a healthy split, 50 percent predominantly online and 50 percent land-based. But I think that’s less relevant now than it was before, because I believe the industry has become much more omnichannel. All the major big customers that we work with that were predominantly land-based now have an online presence. So the mix is something we are very conscious of, and I think that’s something that we apply to all our shows at Clarion.
The ICE Landmark Awards are always a big hit. What goes into the process?
The Landmark Awards carry a lot of credibility in the industry. It’s something that people really appreciate, and it’s different; it’s not like we have different categories and people put an application in and there’s a grand ceremony. It’s based really on nominations from the industry, and it’s any recommendation or achievement from a company or an individual that has represented some milestone or initiative. The last couple of years, we’ve had awards for long service milestones, company anniversaries, etc. So it’s really broad, but we get recommendations from the industry, and if we feel that it represents a landmark, then they get on the list.
Your partnership with the European Casino Association (ECA) has always been a cornerstone of the show. Will that continue this year?
We have a long-term relationship with the ECA. It’s one of our key partners, I would say, and we certainly believe that that is going to continue for many years to come. We always endeavor to surround ourselves with absolutely the best in the industry, and I think from a European land-based casino perspective, the ECA is made up of all of the influencers in that space. So having a formal relationship with that association enables us to ensure that either through the product mix, through the content, or through our strategic positioning of the show, we have absolute access to people that live and breathe the gaming industry