Stuart Hunter: ICE’s April return will mark next evolution of gambling’s biggest tradeshow

A GamblingTV exclusive this week saw SBC Managing Director Andrew McCarron interview Clarion Gaming counterpart Stuart Hunter (MD) on reawakening the ICE 2022 conference following its two-year hiatus under COVID-19 lockdown.

Sticking to its mantra as global gaming’s ‘agenda-setter’, ICE 2022 was originally planned to be hosted at London’s Excel Centre in February. However, Omicron variant disruptions saw Clarion Gaming reschedule its headline conference to the new dates of 12-14 April.

Hunter explained Clarion Gaming’s decision to postpone ICE 2022’s original dates, citing international travel, conference logistics and delegates’ health and safety as primary factors behind the date switch.

The move, however, has led to the high-profile cancellations of land-based gaming machine suppliers Novomatic and Merkur Gaming, alongside igaming technology group Scientific Games who won’t attend an April show.

Though regretful of dropouts, Hunter is confident that ICE 2022 will maintain its position as global gambling’s biggest conference.

“ICE is 100% going ahead this April. Our decision making is based on our customers,” the MD stated.

“There are 25-to-30 customers out of 520, that have either cancelled or are in the process of working that through. Most of those names have been reported by the media, and are predominantly the larger land-based suppliers.

“We totally understand and support their decisions. They are committed to our 2023 show, which we hope will be back to business as usual. However, for now, our focus is on the 450 businesses – predominantly SMEs – that rely on ICE to happen. We need it to work for them.”

Internal changes at Clarion Gaming undertaken during the COVID-19 hiatus saw Hunter and Group MD Alex Pratt take over the strategic planning and production of ICE conferences.

The duo plans to put “exhibitors’ focus on tech and innovation at the forefront of the show and its creative elements”.

“Alex and I are excited to show delegates what we have done to ICE, and how we plan to further evolve it,” Hunter explained. “We have invested in the look and feel of the show, to elevate its experience.

“As an organiser, in some respects, we have been outdone by exhibitors because ICE’s exhibiting investment is unbelievable.

“My viewpoint is that we need to catch-up in terms of the other areas of the show, such as the arrival experience and features area – remind people of the value of being face-to-face and the importance of attending an in-person conference.”

ICE 2022 will see Clarion Gaming host the gambling sector’s first hybrid conference for live and digital audiences, supported by an “ICE 365 studio”.

Hunter explained: “We have invested and built a live studio at ICE this year. It will serve as a hub of information, news and exclusive interviews that will be broadcast to the global industry. It’s a new proposition for those attending and to keep informed those who cannot attend.”

He concluded: “I’m pleased that as an organising team we have not solely focused on just getting back, but have uncovered every stone to make sure we can improve our product.”

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