The 2013 Annual Conference of the International Association of Gaming Advisers (IAGA) was held in London in June and current IAGA President Julian Harris (Harris Hagan) did a superb job of organising a programme of high calibre speakers from across the gambling world.
The theme of the conference was ‘Gaming Convergence: One Industry, Worldwide’ and Philip Graf, Chairman of the UK Gambling Commission, opened with a speech emphasising the need for, and importance of, international collaboration between gambling regulators and the gambling industry.
The lunchtime presentation by Pansy Ho (MGM China Holdings, Shun Tak Holdings) was a real highlight on the gambling conference circuit in Europe this year. Ms Ho told delegates of the massive developments in the Pearl River Delta in China involving industry, tourism and gaming which demonstrate the shift away from a focus solely on gaming to one more on wider leisure and tourism pursuits.
There has been a great deal of scrutiny on match-fixing in sports in the last 18 months and the IAGA tackled the topic in London with a panel discussion involving Mike O’Kane (Ladbrokes), Steve Richardson (ECB Anti –Corruption Unit) and regulatory officials Stanislas Frossard (Council of Europe) and Lorraine Pearman (UK Gambling Commission).
The CEO roundtable delved into issues facing the gambling sector and its future development. The assembled gambling chief executives had experience of a range of sectors and markets: Gavin Issacs of SHFL, Peter Brooks of Genting UK, Patti Hart of IGT, Brian Mattingley of 888 Holdings, and Martin Storm of BMM Compliance. The CEOs agreed with Philip Graf’s emphasis on the need to respond to consumer confidence in the industry but Patti Hart (IGT) returned to the theme of regulation with a call for more proportionate regulation in the areas that matter, and, in some jurisdictions, a modernisation of regulatory rules that may no longer be applicable to modern times. Peter Brooks pointed to the permissible number of slot machines in casinos which in his opinion was far too low having regard to Internet access and what other countries now allow.
Just as Pansy Ho had done, Gary Loveman (Caesar’s Entertainment) used his speech to illustrate the changes that have occurred in the world of gaming, with the business shift to hotel and amenity related profits. He argued that the gambling regulatory framework, originally designed to support legalisation of gambling, has evolved but needs to continue do so to keep pace with ongoing changes.
Loveman questioned the need for extremely detailed regulatory requirements covering every aspect of the operation of business, and for any innovation or new development to require prior approval and comprehensive testing. He praised the system of regulation in the UK as being one that had been transformed in keeping with the changes in the industry, with a risk based approach to regulation, placing the burden for compliance firmly with the operator.
Global Betting and Gaming Consultants’ CEO Warwick Bartlett participated in the Financing and M&A panel, looking at recent gambling sector deals, the prospects for future M&A activity in a consolidating gambling sector, and the ease of raising financing for gambling transactions in the current business environment.
Away from the conference floor the IAGA Summit 2013 did not disappoint on the socialising front. There was an opening reception at the Grosvenor House Hotel’s Palm Room overlooking Hyde Park, an afternoon tea for Global Gaming Women, and a reception in the beautiful surroundings of Spencer House overlooking St James Park.
The President’s Dinner at the Banqueting House in Whitehall was notable was the first to be held in a place of execution, being the location for the execution of King Charles I in 1649, though that fact did not dampen the spirits of those attending a very enjoyable dinner.
Overall, IAGA Summit 2013 was an excellent conference with some good debate from influential speakers in the gambling sector. Let us hope it is not another 16 years before it returns to London.