It was my sixth visit to ExCel London for the annual ICE London gambling and gaming expo, one of, if not the biggest, event on the calendar for those working in the gambling and gaming sector.
Before the show begins there is usually the chore of dragging my case as well as promotional materials, including the dreaded and cumbersome six foot roll up banners, across London on the overground, underground, and on the DLR. This year however it was different.
NEW CONSUMER PROTECTION ZONE STANDS
Thanks to the team at Clarion, our stands would be printed and ready to go, and transport-wise, the new Elizabeth Line meant my trip to London’s Docklands was achieved in just 20 minutes from Kings Cross – a third of the time it usually takes.
This meant I made great time and was a able to arrive nice and early on the Monday, the day before the exhibition started, to attend some of the ICEVOX sessions, a perk of being a speaker and exhibitor of the Consumer Protection Zone (CPZ).
WORLD REGULATORY BRIEFING
I was keen to attend the world regulatory briefing to hear about the latest developments in regulation of gambling across the world. Tim Miller, Executive Director of the UK Gambling Commission, gave a special address and joined a panel focusing on gaming regulation.
The UK is still anticipating the output from a call for evidence ahead of a review of the 2005 Gambling Act. The long awaited white paper that will detail proposed changes to the act has now been delayed by over a year due to other priorities and key changes of personnel in government. It does not look to be due anytime soon either due to a recent cabinet re-shuffle.
A point Tim made on the panel was that “tools to prevent gambling harm are only successful if they have public confidence”. This I feel is extremely important if the act is to be successful in preventing gambling harm. Much has been made of proposed affordability checks, imposing of limits and over regulation fueling a migration by customers to black market sites. It is imperative that the outcomes of the review are evidence-based and take into account the needs of those that engage in gambling.
I also listened to a fireside chat with Barry Gibson, Chair at Entain, who called for a “gold standard” in regulation in the UK – a sentiment he had shared with us a couple of weeks earlier when he visited our treatment facility in Dudley. As part of the visit, Barry met with one of our residents and was keen to understand the challenges they had faced and what they could do as an organisation to improve.
Monday finished with a reception at the Sky Garden in central London and a chance to network with those in attendance at the session.
ICE PUTTING PLAYER PROTECTION FIRST
Arriving at Custom House station for the first day of the conference, I couldn’t help but get excited walking down the purple carpet under the canopy between the station and the ExCel entrance. ICE brings such a mixture of people together and even early on a Tuesday it was bustling with people grabbing coffee and making final preparations to their stands.
Our home for the next three days would be in the Consumer Protection Zone which had its own theatre for speakers and an area with stands for those exhibiting. These were situated in the North hall at the first entrance – a fantastic location showing that ICE was putting the safety of players first.
From the off on the first day the CPZ was the busiest I had ever seen it. I had attended the first CPZ in 2018 and it is fantastic to see the progress it has made. 20 exhibitors were on show at the zone and it felt like consumer protection had been firmly established as a key part of the sector and an integral part of any organisations operation.
It is a huge credit to Ewa Bakun and her team at Clarion that the CPZ continues to grow each year with more exhibitors, quality content and more prevalent locations. It was great to see the teams efforts recognised at the recent Vixio Regulatory Regulatory Awards 2022, where they scooped the Responsible Approach To Advertising Or Marketing Award.
OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE CPZ
After a busy morning it was over to the CPZ theater for the official opening and content. YGAM CEO, Jayne Rigbye, opened proceedings, which was followed by a panel discussion on DEI and ESG. (Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. Environmental, Social and Governance. I had to look them up too!) Both important topics and something you will see more of in the future as organisations increasingly build these considerations into their corporate responsibilities.
MODERATING A PANEL
I moderated the following panel which focused on the terminology used within safer gambling and how these definitions evolve as research, policy and technology capabilities change. My esteemed panel consisted of Maris Catania, an expert in responsible gambling research; Charles Cohen, CEO of Department of Trust; and Warren Russell, CEO of W2.
They provided expert insight into the everchanging landscape and the challenge we face in engaging customers in safer gambling strategies as highlighted by Tim Miller in his panel the day before.
LIVED EXPERIENCE PANEL
The final panel of the day focused on lived experience – which is so important in tackling gambling harms and helping us to understand the complexities of gambling addiction. A topic still so hidden and shrouded in shame and stigma but for which there is support and treatment through organisations like ours that help people reclaim and rebuild their lives.
CPZ SPONSORSHIP DONATIONS
The CPZ is sponsored by a number of organisations who have provided over £200,000 which has been donated to participants of the CPZ to support their work in tackling gambling harm. This years worthy beneficiaries were BetKnowMore UK, Better Change, National Council on Problem Gambling from the USA, and AGOG, providing support to those affected by gambling addiction in the Netherlands. Each were presented with a cheque for £13,200.
GAMBLING BUSINESS GROUP RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING CHARTER
On day two, former Gordon Moody trustee, and Gambling Business Group (GBG) Chief Executive, Peter Hannibal launched their High Street Hub – an initiative to support licensed street operators with their responsible gambling strategies as well as providing a space to stimulate lively, topical and informed debate around the sector. Part of the high street hub initiative was the introduction of their responsible gambling charter, which was launched by Gordon Moody CEO, Matthew Hickey, who said:
“We all have our part to play in reducing gambling harm. Research, education, prevention and treatment are all essential in creating a safer environment for those who operate in the sector as well as their customers ensuring that those that need support have access to the right intervention, in the right place, at the right time.
Therefore, we are delighted to see organisations like the Gambling Business Group working proactively to go above and beyond with their approach to Responsible Gambling and the commitment to continuous improvement. We have reviewed the new GBG Responsible Gambling charter and as a result, we are very happy at Gordon Moody to support its contents. Let’s tackle gambling addiction together.”
The charter outlines a number of safer gambling measures the operators must undertake as part of their membership of the GBG. Gordon Moody will continue to support the charter with input and regular review.
Such was the level of traffic in the CPZ, it was difficult to pull myself away from the various meetings and conversations that took place. There really was an interest in the CPZ that has exceeded previous years and it was great to see. When I did manage to get away to explore the huge exhibition that reached out across the entire floor space of the ExCel, it was clear to see that this was an epic staging of the event.
I spoke with Chris Jones from Scott & Jones Communications in the new location of the media suite, situated in the Platinum Suite high above the central concourse of the arena. Chris pointed out that from this vantage point you could see the huge crowds of people attending the show and it really gave a perspective of the scale of the event. Officially over 40,000 people visited this year’s ICE, a record attendance.
There is much debate around the sector at the moment especially with the current review of the Gambling Act. Something that is vitally important is that collaboration between various areas of the sector needs to be encouraged, especially from a player protection perspective. We all have a part to play in minimising gambling harm and collectively we are able to achieve so much more. As the theme of this years ICE suggests we are stronger together.
FINAL DAY OF ICE LONDON 2023
The third and final day at ICE is usually somewhat subdued compared to the rest of the show, as weary delegates and exhibitors brave the floor once more. Not this year! I was struck by the positivity and the optimism of this year’s show and the genuine conversations and collaborative approach to player protection.
SEE YOU NEXT YEAR
After a difficult couple of years ICE was back where it belonged and it delivered in spades. It was great to meet with so many people, make new contacts and learn about new initiatives in the safer gambling arena. Thank you so much to all the people who engaged with us and to those that pledged their support to us, Gordon Moody are so grateful for your support. To the friends and contacts I have made at ICE over the years but missed this year, my apologies – lets catch up soon!
For anyone who wants to find out more or support the work we do at Gordon Moody then please do get in touch, I look forward to speaking with you. To the rest of you, see you next year!
Now for the long journey home, thank goodness for the Elizabeth line! Let’s tackle gambling addiction together.
If you are concerned about your own or a loved ones gambling please get in touch www.gordonmoody.org.uk or call the National Gambling Helpline 0808 8020 133.