It’s January, which means it’s the start of a new calendar year. This period also triggers a series of other yearly cycles, such as Chinese New Year on 8 February and the UK fiscal year on 31 March. But in the online gambling world, our year ends and starts again with ICE.*
Like New Year’s Eve, ICE is when we all show ourselves at our best. We dust off our most comfortable heels (multiple pairs to rotate the blisters), put the finishing touches on our new platform and product releases, and make the final preparations for our top secret wow-the-crowd displays.
Just in time for ICE, Pegasus Gaming Solutions has launched this shiny new website. I can’t tell you what Microgaming is showcasing, as it will give the secret away, but I’m excited about seeing it live. If you love new tech like I do, be sure to stop by the N5 entrance at ExCeL London next week!
Unfortunately, a less pleasant New Year’s tradition holds true for ICE. With the lean summer months around the corner, we step on the scale and put ourselves on a diet.** After all, we need to be beach body ready by June or the decreasing player numbers will eat into our profits.
Also like New Year’s Eve, we tend to end ICE feeling a little the worse for wear. Exhausted, with caffeine headaches and pockets full of business cards from people we just about remember meeting, we taxi back to our homes, hotels and airports.
Exhausted, but also a little exhilarated, because we made it another round. We, collectively, survived shifting regulations, increasing costs, higher taxes and smarter competition, and we’re all the stronger for it. Each year in our industry, we see companies fall to the wayside, victims to the grind of our increasingly difficult industry. Others teeter on the edge, praying for a buyout or merger that will save them. The latter seems likely, these days, so good luck to them.
Our industry is maturing, after all, and even strong industries experience growing pains. And the grim news is still in the minority: Sky Betting and Gaming were recognised as being one of the best companies in the UK to work for; 32Red has just announced another record year, with NGR up 51%; Microgaming and Betway jointly won the Guinness World Records title for the ‘Largest jackpot payout in an online slot machine game’; Betfair's CEO was proclaimed the "Business Person of the Year 2015" by The Sunday Times; the industry is shifting towards a more customer-centric player management approach; the European regulatory landscape is looking clearer; and so much more.
And so, if I have a little tipple at the International Gaming Awards on the Monday before ICE (Microgaming is up for six awards) and start singing Auld Lang Syne to myself, join in for a chorus or two. I’m not just remembering the glorious days of the past, when all hills were downhills, I’m celebrating the resiliency and strength of our industry and the people in it.
Onward ICE! See you all there.
*If you are even tangentially associated with the gambling industry, you have no doubt been inundated with emails, mail, messages through various social media and even phone calls from the industrious ICE organisers, Clarion, for the last several months. If you are not: ICE Totally Gaming is the annual conference/love-in for the online and land-based gambling industries. It is running 2 – 4 February this year. Always London, always massive. Over 25,000 attendees last year.
**More accurately, stepping on the scale in your pyjamas, losing all colour in your face, swiftly stopping off again and stripping down to your skivvies, stepping on the scale again, firming your jaw and declaring to your better half: “We’re going on a diet!” Actual diet may or may not follow.