The Secret Racegoer visits ICE London to see the genius of betting and gaming
For a change of scene, the Secret Racegoer takes the DLR to Customs House and visits ICE London, a major exhibition for the betting and gaming industry, at the ExCel centre.
Apparently, the Spirit of Genius is currently running throughout the international gaming industry. That’s according to Kate Chambers, the managing director of ICE, in her introduction to ICE London, the “world’s favourite gaming event”, taking place this week at the ExCel centre.
Genius may well be at work with those who were exhibiting roulette paraphernalia, online gaming, slot machines and other ways of having a flutter, but it didn’t apply to trying to gain entry to ICE London where four attempts were made to get press accreditation before someone spotted the Secret Racegoer was from The Racing Hub, not The Racing Hib.
But once you are into ICE London, the claim that it’s the “world’s favourite gaming event” starts to take on some credence.
Anyone who is anyone in betting and gaming is represented or visiting. Not just those who present punters with myriad ways by which they can contribute to the industry’s ROI, but those who live off the crumbs from the big roulette and card tables.
Many of the exhibitors offer such services as facilitating easy payment, although it’s not immediately evident if they also offer the same for easy pay-outs.
And, if you are going to play the tables you need somewhere to sit, so those companies who want to make it more comfortable for you whilst you see your pile of chips diminish offer numerous chairs to suit all sizes of back pockets.
There’s something like 1,000 exhibitors spread across ExCel’s two vast halls, so it’s a battle to gain the attention of visitors.
Until recently, the tried and tested method was to populate stands with girls vying with each other for who could wear the least amount of clothing. Times have changed and almost all those handing out brochures and trying to lure potential customers now wear what you’d regularly see on a Friday night at Liverpool Street Station, but without the propensity to fall over.
Falling over is left to the visitors, who can be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the show with its loud music and flashing lights, and miss their step at the edge of a stand and trip towards a representative who picks them up, brushes them down and starts to tell them about the ROI of a gaming machine.
It’s not just the dazzling lights, the energy of which could power a small town, that cause the slight stumble, it could be the partaking of alcohol, especially when it’s free as it was at the NetEnt stand, displaying their premium gaming solutions though probably not how to win, which drew a big crowd with its complimentary bottles of beer and glasses of wine.
It also invested in giant screens where Ozzy Osbourne featured in its promotional video. You had to feel sorry for those on neighbouring stands struggling to make themselves heard above the noisy people living next door.
Another stroke of genius for attracting the crowds was performances of Kabuki theatre on the Ganpati Malta (game studios) stand. So that’s classical Japanese dance theatre presented by a British firm called Ganpati Malta. It might even catch on at post-racing music evenings.
For Novomatic (slot machines) the way to attract visitors was to attempt world domination, well ICE London domination, with a stand almost the size of a football pitch.
You couldn’t walk around it, so you had to cross from one side to another, with your eyes down, hoping that a representative wouldn’t catch you and regale you with the ROI of their equipment, slightly less in the case of FOBTs.
It would be usual by now for the Secret Racegoer to mention the quality and price of a pint of Guinness, but the black stuff couldn’t be found. Anyway, the beer was free courtesy of NetEnt.
So he’s still asking himself why he paid £5.75 for a bottle of lager at the Racing Post Cafe. Answer? NetEnt was about two furlongs away, he couldn’t be bothered to walk all the way back and, besides, he’d found a seat on the Racing Post stand. So he had a second bottle.
In the space of thirty minutes he was over £10 the poorer, somebody at the Racing Post was counting the ROI and the spirit of genius had faded.