“Every gaming vertical across every global jurisdiction”: Event Director Andy Ventris explains the enduring appeal of ICE
Can you introduce us this 2024 edition of Ice? What are the main reasons why those in the sector must attend this year and what will be the highlight?
Taking into account ICE and its sister show iGB Affiliate all of the space available at ExCeL London has been sold. In addition to our circa 700 exhibitors we will also have a record number of sponsors, media and trade association partners. We have enhanced existing features such as the Esports Arena and the Consumer Protection Zone at the same time as introducing two completely new features which I am sure visitors will enjoy.
Fast Forward which is new for 2024 will provide a focal point where the gaming industry can discover, discuss and shape the future. It’s a place where the technology of tomorrow will be showcased to the people who are going to be bringing it to market. It’s a meeting place where those active in moving the industry into a positive future can connect with like-minded individuals. Fast Future is aimed at start-ups wanting to connect with potential investors, positive-disruptors who are bringing new ways of doing business and/or game-changing technologies to market and at organisations and individuals who are currently or are wishing to introduce Diversity Equity and Inclusion undertakings to the workplace. Fast Forward is for thinkers, thought-leaders, doer’s, disruptors, creators, explorers, serial entrepreneurs and the visionaries who keep the industry moving at break-neck speed. In fact, in many ways, Fast Forward encapsulates what ICE is all about!
Our latest initiative to deliver more connections between businesses across the international gaming industry has seen the development of the Growth Markets Zone. Providing a focus for businesses active in or targeting Latin America and Africa, the Growth Markets Zone will provide a place for suppliers to meet and connect with international businesses. We always work in partnership with our stakeholders to deliver initiatives which will help them to meet their business objectives and the Growth Markets Zone will serve as the ‘go to’ location for those interested in the significant business opportunities which exist in LatAm and Africa. I think ICE 2024 will go down in history as being an ‘I was there ‘event. There’s no doubt that it will be a poignant occasion for many of our exhibitors who will be saying their own farewell to London. We have organised a special farewell party for ICE London and iGB Affiliate London on Tuesday 6th February. It will host 5,000 VIP guests and will feature several internationally recognized music artists. It’s a ticketed event and will be the only official party in town.
Ultimately, the reason why so many international industry professionals want to be part of ICE/iGB Affiliate is down to the quality and the calibre of our exhibitors. When visitors attend ICE they know that they will see and have access to the very best gaming brands and the leading industry innovators found anywhere in the world. Our theme for ICE 2024 is MORE – which is exactly what visitors will experience: MORE connections, MORE insight, MORE inspiration and as a consequence MORE business opportunities.
Last year you reached 40 thousand visitors, what is your target this year? Does this mean that the pandemic effect is really over?
The consequences of the COVID pandemic threatened the existence of many thousands of our customers and also shut down the events sector. But if there was any upside at all, COVID allowed us the time to reach out to our customers and really understand the dynamics of their businesses. One outcome of that was our decision to run the 2022 event – it was clear some customers really needed to have an edition of ICE. As a result, we adapted the event accordingly. I think the industry was surprised how successful ICE 2022 was. Smaller yes and of course missing some key brands, but it kick-started the rehabilitation of the industry which in turn culminated in a record-breaking 2023 event. Now we are primed for ‘MORE in ‘24’ and of course what will be a new era for gaming from 2025 in a new host city. These are extremely exciting times for everyone associated with the ICE brand and our exclusive focus is on delivering a memorable farewell to London and an event which meets the business needs of all of our customers, across every vertical and every gaming jurisdiction.
The Ice Vox platform has been increasingly appreciated, since its birth in 2017. What do you think is the main strong point of its format?
This year’s edition has been widely acclaimed for being the most impressive on record. The ICE VOX programme comprises three high profile conferences - the World Regulatory Briefing (WrB) the International Casino Conference (ICC) and the Esports Betting Conference which is in addition to four deep-dive workshops entitled Safer Gaming, Entering New Markets, the iGaming Customer Journey and Innovating Lotteries. In total it features expert insights from more than 150 thought leaders, policy-makers, industry commentators, trade body CEOs and politicians which is more than ever before. However, It’s not just the number of thought leaders that we have brought together that’s unprecedented it’s also the standing and status of the ICE VOX speakers which reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of international gaming. ICE VOX 2024 will deliver MORE content and inspiration than ever before making it one of those extremely rare events which industry leaders cannot and do not miss. I believe that ICE VOX is the most influential event of its type in world gaming which is due to the topicality of content and the calibre of speakers. ICE VOX was described by award winning former Financial Times journalist Nadine Dereza as being the Davos of Gaming a description which I think is totally appropriate.
Casino and games is still the largest area of interest within Ice. Looking at the evolution of recent years, do you have any data that indicates which sector has grown the most (in size or participation) compared to the others?
A unique characteristic of ICE is the fact that it represents every gaming vertical across every global jurisdiction. As a consequence, it serves as a marketplace for all of the technology advancement the industry has to offer. ICE 2024 will be a shopwindow for the very latest innovations delivering many thousands of ‘first to market’ exclusives. The growth of sports betting and online gaming is at the forefront of this, and the show will be packed with tech to support this growth. Our customers tell us that the traditional online/offline dichotomy is much less relevant following the emergence of Omnichannel gaming impacting many land-based suppliers and operators. One thing for certain is that courtesy of the leading innovators who will be on the ICE show floor – there will be an invaluable, once a year opportunity to source product for every single gaming sector. ICE Is the global marketplace where innovators choose to launch their game-changing, entertainment-defining products which explains why so many international industry professionals consider ICE to be a ‘must attend.’
There will also be a large arena dedicated to esports. How much has this new sector grown within ICE since its creation?
I am proud to say that ICE is widely regarded as having led the way in terms of introducing Esports to the international gaming and betting community. The Esports Arena, which is one of the most popular features on the show floor, is all about delivering authenticity and using the in-person experience to bring the business-building opportunities delivered by Esports to life. Our theme for 2024 is F1 and we will have two professional racers competing head-to-head to demonstrate the dynamic world of Esports racing. Attendees will also be able to immerse themselves in VR and haptic feedback racing, compete on four connected simulated rigs and participate in a Pit Stop Challenge. In addition to the Arena delegates will be able to participate in the Esports Betting Conference (EBC) which is taking place on 8 February at the ICC Capital Suite, part of ExCeL London. The Conference, which is being supported by headline sponsor DATA.BET, comprises a blend of issues and topics including insights on the status of Esports in the Americas, data integrity and how to maximise its value as well as an exclusive session delivered by Rivalry which will unpack market leading practices for engaging with Gen Z. The Conference unlocks the immense potential which exists at the crossroads of esports and betting. It will put industry professionals wishing to understand the dynamics driving this phenomenon in pole position by drawing on the expert insights of pioneer brands.
This edition will be the last to take place in London, then, at least for the next few years, Ice will take place in Barcelona. Regardless of the reasons for this choice, is it possible that, in the post-pandemic period, it has become less important for a large event like ICE to be identified with a specific city?
The motivation for the relocation came from our exhibitors and the process for selecting Barcelona was overseen by an independent specialist agency. The industry didn’t decide to move away from London so much as decide that Barcelona offered a unique set of opportunities. I believe the relationship between city and event brand is vital. Barcelona will allow ICE and the industry to grow, to adapt and to engage in a festival of gaming, both at show and in the Catalan city whom are partners for ICE Barcelona 2025. It will be the catalyst for the global industry to unite and move collectively towards even greater opportunities.
Interview first published by GiocoNews