The ICE Totally GamingExpo & Conference covers the entire gaming spectrum, from land-basedcasinos to online gaming websites and mobile applications. It welcomes over20,000 visitors every year and presents the most important topics related to the industry across three days.
ICE Totally Gaming has become the biggest event of the year in the global gaming industry and it sees thousands of delegates and hundreds of booths across the three-day conference held at the ExCel center in London. Over 60 countries are represented and operators often times use this occasion to unveil their latest products, make new contacts and overall shape the future of the industry for the next year and further beyond it.
Every year, the popularity of the conference increases and the 2015 ICE Totally Gaming managed to shatter several records. After three days filled with events, there are some highlights that managed to stand out and demand some attention.
ICE Totally Gaming 2015 Day 1
The conference started on the 3rd of February and the first day was a very busy one, with the line to get in wrapping around the entrance at the massive ExCel conference. From 10am to 12pm, the wait outside was very long but this did not seem to discourage the many eager people waiting to get it and start exploring the conference and the many booths it was hosting.
Given the size of the place and the many exciting things being unveiled, taking a short walk through the hall is not really an option. The biggest operators in the business are here to attract new customers and present important new products. Novomatic was one of the brands that were easy to spot as it continued with its regular strategy and secured itself a gigantic space to better feature its offering.
Microgaming came up with an interesting way of promoting its latest slot release, Game of Thrones. The known operator featured a green screen at its booth where visitors could take a seat and get a print of them sitting on the “Iron Throne” from the popular HBO series.
The overall experience was marked by gorgeous women, some of which were topless and with body paint while others wore cute little outfits. As expected, slot machines were everywhere and it seems that 2015 will continue the well-established trend of the spinning reels being the favorite options for casino players. But more than that, the conference didn’t really lack for anything and if there was something a casino user or operator would enjoy seeing, you could have placed a wager on finding it at ICE, displayed to stand out.
The Bitcoin and Crypto Currencies Seminar was back this year after being a hit in 2014. It represented one of the highlights of the first day and it featured several sessions dedicated to the subject of crypto currencies in the modern online gaming sector. Despite the fact that Bitcoin saw a significant drop in the past several months and there is still some hesitation from gaming operators regarding it, the opportunities and the potential it holds for the industry remain quite impressive. According to Sonny Singh from BitPlay, the recent drop in the value of Bitcoin brought bad news as well as good news as while it did scare potential businesses, it also helped make it more popular and now more people are using the crypto currency than ever before.
While the value of Bitcoins on the market has saw its fair share of fluctuations, events looking to educate users and operators towards the future of crypto currencies and online gaming show that the two industries are moving forward and have the potential for a great marriage.
A booth that stood out on the first day and possibly appealed more to American attendees more was the one organized by OpenBet. The operator decorated its space to make it look like an actual American bar and had flat screens on the walls, with a stocked bar in the middle. Furthermore, it showed Super Bowl footage and managed to draw in quite the crowd. The goal was to promote and offer a representation of the new optimized gaming channel used by OpenBet through which online punters can enjoy a variety of betting options and access their accounts from anywhere and at any time.
Also on the first day, the seminar on Tribal Gaming took place and it had several sessions led by Victor Rocha from Pechanga.net meant to help operators better understand how to do business with Indian communities. High profile panelists helped bring a lot of insight on the matter and show why some of the best casinos in the world are owned by tribal operators. One of the advices offered was to visit the Indian companies on their homeland in order to better understand their heritage.
Overall, all the presented panelists seemed to agree on the fact that the biggest opportunity provided by tribal land is with suppliers from Europe that are not currently well represented on the tribal floors. European operators are advised to first go to tribes rather than to casinos from Las Vegas and Atlantic City since this will ensure a better test for the products and the regulations available are superior to the ones in the big gambling cities. Furthermore, there are 254 tribes and each of them represents an opportunity.
A return to the expo floor ton finish the first day revealed the Net Entertainment show based on the latest product created by the software developed – Guns ‘N Roses. The new slot game will be widely released soon across online casinos and the NetEnt team celebrated by blasting music at the stand, giving out champagne and handing CD’s of the band along with customized iPhone 5 cases to visitors.
ICE Totally Gaming 2015 Day 2
The second day was just as packed as the first and thousands of attendees were roaming the floor, going to the sessions and making contacts. From the moment the doors opened at 10am and to when Day 2 was over at 6pm, everything was buzzing with excitement at the ICE Totally Gaming conference.
One of the new things done this year was focusing more on start-up activities with the goal of presenting the innovation of the industry. The segment was called Pitch ICE and it is an entirely new feature that will most likely be repeated in the years to come. GamCrowd organized the whole thing along with Clarion and it was held during the second day of ICE.
Each start-up company had 15 minutes in which to present their products and ideas to delegates from the conference, while being filmed for further distribution through the website of the crowd funding operator. One of the representatives stated that he was pleased with the presentations and that the winner will be determined through the response from the public.
The Nexus “Start-up Incubator” focused more on educating operators and interested customers of what to expect when entering the industry. Everything from customer retention to turning a profit was covered, with benchmarks for different online activities and information on reliable services. While a lot of people are interesting in getting in, they are not familiar with the challenges that wait ahead, according to one of the representatives at the booth.
Every year during the ICE Totally Gaming Expo, there are ICE Conferences taking place that present smaller events that focus on hot topics. One of the highlights was the IMGL Masterclass conference that took place on the second day and presented sessions on growth opportunities available in emerging markets. This covered Spain, India, North America, Australia and Latin America.
There is still plenty of road ahead for the United States to get to a large online gaming market and the focus now seems to be on online poker regulations in California, with the industry still being split on several topics, including a “bad actors” clause that would basically prevent PokerStars from entering the market. According to one of the panelists, Sue Schneider, the industry must first come together and agree on one single message before the politicians can get on board with the idea and start pushing for new regulation.
With so many options and booths to check out, many companies use eye-catching gimmicks to get the attention of the crowd. While we mentioned the hot ladies on the first day, we also have to talk about some of the gadgets, the music, and Dracula coffin and other things designed to get attention. One of such things was the freestyle footballer hired by Credorax that did some impressive things with the ball and attracted fans of the sport and of online sports betting in general.
ICE Totally Gaming 2015 Day 3
The third and final day of ICE Totally Gaming 2015 was also the quietest day so far, giving attendees a chance to better check out the booths on a less crowded floor. One of the reasons for the lower attendance is the Fire & Ice party held at the end of Day 2, leaving a good part of the attendees too exhausted for another day at the conference.
Operators however know very well that the third day is still very important and they are keen to tie up loose ends and finish the annual event on a high note. One of the highlights was the Odobo Play App heavily being featured at the Odobo booth. This innovative application plays a big role in the puzzle of the company and allows online gambling customers to access some of their favorite games being featured on the platform. Users can use the app to select the titles from the developing studios and then choose the operator to play at. Based on the location of the player and the regulations in that market, the games can be played for free or for real money. The Odobo CEO added that the app will be further improved and that there is the chance to add virtual currencies into the mix.
Of course, the booths at the event were not just held by operators as several regulators had spaces at ICE. Some of them include First Cagayan, Kahnawake, Jersey and Malta. With the new POCT regulation in the UK, Jersey has managed to re-emerge as a major jurisdiction in the iGaming industry and it has already been welcomed with great success at ICE.
The Sports Betting Village continued to create a nice little corner designed especially for sports fans this year at the conference and 1X2 Gaming was there with a large space and an interactive booth at the entrance. The operator demoed its Virtual Football Pro application that has an incredible 162 leagues taking place in 146 countries. The international reach of the gaming website means that players can easily opt to bet on a local tournament and team and win real money or just go for something new from other countries.
While ICE Totally Gaming has been focusing more and more on the online segment in recent years, it remains the best bridge built between iGaming and the land-based industry, with operators looking to study what works best at the brick and mortar giants in order to generate ideas for the online industry. Games are the main focus in this regard as development can easily be based on slot machines for land-based casinos.
The conclusion after three packed days of sessions, conferences and checking out booths is that the global gaming industry is doing very well and it looks like it will continue to grow for years to come, with new markets becoming available and new operators joining the fun. The ICE Totally Gaming Expo remains one of the most important events of the year and we are looking forward to the one in 2016.