Peter Hannibal, CEO of the cross sector strategic body, the Gambling Business Group, looks back on ICE 2019 and questions the fuzzy logic behind the Gambling Commission’s decision not to attend and asks what message its ’no show’ policy sends the industry and all of those genuinely interested in consumer protection.

Last week saw the world’s biggest international gambling show take place at London’s ExCeL Centre. ICE was once again expertly organised by Clarion and a big ‘well done’ should go to Kate Chambers and her team for making it such a fantastic success.

It was encouraging to see regulators from overseas jurisdictions securing their presence, sharing their views and opinions and learning about what developments might be coming down the line by taking exhibition booths, some in prominent areas, some with positions towards the back of the hall.

Others marked their presence by holding, attending or speaking at the many relevant seminars held across the three days.
All in all some 70 regulatory authorities were represented, benefitting from the many attributes that ICE gives to its attendees. But missing from all of this vital activity taking place on its door step was our very own home regulator, the Gambling Commission – an absence that provoked a Mexican Wave of raised eyebrows among the great and the good who could find their way to London E16.

Clarion should also be congratulated for again hosting a Consumer Protection Zone (CPZ) as it did for the first time last year.
This focus on the protection of the vulnerable attracted a host of important exhibitors and supported a strong itinerary of presentations all around the subject of Consumer Protection.

In an evolving culture where we all strive to put the consumer and their requirements at the very centre of everything we do, it makes absolute sense for Clarion to evolve this innovative area going forwards.

You would have also thought that a regulator who’s first ‘strategic priority’ is to “protect the interests of consumers” would have regarded the CPZ as a golden opportunity to improve their knowledge and learning, particularly when technology is moving at such a fast pace.

One could possibly have understood if the Commission only sent a couple of their 300+ employees along as they did just a few weeks before at EAG 2019 – we would all of course welcome better cost control. But to embargo the whole event does seem on the surface a churlish response to their own headline created at last year’s event. If, as the official line goes, their ‘no show’ represented merely a change of strategy why then turn up for one show held a matter of week’s previously and not the other? Furthermore, the focus for EAG was more amusements than gambling and ICE has a world class reputation for being the event at which innovators launch new gambling technologies. Some might call this a no brainer – but hey, there’s always next year!

It was pointed out by a number of individuals, who shall remain nameless, that if the GC only turn up to cast aspersions about men in grey suits (and women who are not), then perhaps it is better that they don’t show up at all?

Putting the knock about to one side I think it is an important opportunity missed, because the consumer appears to have been left behind in all of this politicking. But it’s also an opportunity missed to communicate with the industry that they regulate, an opportunity missed to learn about technological advances that could help them with their own objectives. An opportunity missed for ‘horizon scanning’, which one would have thought was highly important to the GC in their role as regulator.

With Brexit looming, was this not the time for the GC to ensure that its links with the Gaming Regulators European Forum (GREF) and other regulators, were as firm as possible for the future? This was not the time to be hiding behind the sofa.

It is difficult to conclude that this change in the ‘direction of travel’ taken by the UK regulator is in anyway a positive one. What a shame and what a missed opportunity?