1/24/2012 : A BIG FINAL HURRAH FOR I.C.E. AT EARL’S COURT
Major turnout for 2012’s exhibition as plans go ahead for a change in venue next year
Large crowds of exhibitors and visitors surged around Earl’s Court in London Tuesday as the gambling industry attended the last ICE show to be held at the exhibition venue.
After many years at Earl’s Court, the organisers are moving online gambling’s biggest commercial show to new, purpose-built facilities across the city at the ExCel centre, an ultra modern venue situated next to the Royal Victoria Docks and close to London City Airport.
ICE organisers, Clarion Gaming, revealed Tuesday that the move – and new exhibition dates of 5 to 7 February 2013 – was only implemented after consultation with exhibitors and visitors, who were unanimous in approving the switch.
And what a send-off the traditional Earl’s Court is giving ICE; this year there are 64 new exhibitors and 52 nations are represented in the more than 20 000 square metres of show space occupied by 444 different companies – the majority from the United States, with Italy, Germany, Austria and Taiwan in the top five.
Over 20 000 visitors will walk the aisles between the stands this year, and millions in business deals will be triggered.
We visited many enthusiastic exhibitors undeterred by the harsh economic conditions in the world, among them Continent 8, the Isle of Man hosting giant that now has facilities across seven nations including the UK, France, Malta, Singapore, Gibraltar and Malta.
Before 2012 is done, Continent 8 will expand its recently developed and comprehensive facilities in Gibraltar, launched in August 2011 and boosted by the company’s acquisition of the Vault Technology communications centre on The Rock last December.
From Dublin, the relatively new technology company Mobile Stakes is set to release an interesting iApp next month that enables punters to access a wider range of app-based games. Branded Slots Manor, the product is a Cloud-based, real-money gaming in-browser bridge that founder Rajat Gupta claims will open up a far greater selection of gambling offerings to players.
Over at SB Global, the staff were enthusiastically revving up the popular mobile trend, showcasing the firm’s first HTML.5 mobile betting platform which provides a full range of service facilities that includes player-location GPS capability.
Veteran games and software supplier Openbet augmented their customary wide product display with a challenge for visitors to take on two darts and snooker champions in a clever promo designed to draw attention to the company’s recent big sponsorship initiatives with sports bodies. ‘Challenge the Power’ will pit visitors against experts like Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor and snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Veteran Swedish industry software and games developer Net Entertainment was focused on its highly professional NetEnt Touch range of products – a move into the iTouch world with an initial range of specially revamped versions of its popular games Gonzo’s Quest, Jack Hammer and Blackjack. The staff were proudly showing off the latest online slot from the company – Starburst – and hyping a late afternoon launch of a mystery new Platinum-class product.
The universal optimism generated by the recent US Department of Justice policy change on internet gambling and the Wire Act has continued to buoy up hopes at ICE this year, generating discussions everywhere.
Bally Technologies is but one of the major American land gambling companies preparing to exploit any changes in online gambling’s status in the USA. The company recently acquired MacroView Laboratories, a mobile apps developer; with Bally senior exec Kurt Gissane confirming that the new member of the group will enable Bally to translate its existing range of land-casino games into the booming mobile environment.
The GTechG2 group is also building up mobile capability for its sister company Spielo International, enabling that company to translate land games like Book of the Sphinx to the mobile gambling sector. GTech is also publicising Casino Job, a new 3D game, and a product dubbed GMS Flightboard.
Casino Job is designed to engage players as they adopt one of four true-to-life characters, including an Angelina Jolie lookalike, and crack into a virtual casino safe against the clock . It’s the first of many new games that will see GTech G2 push new boundaries in game development during 2012, spokesmen assured us.
GMS Flightboard allows operators to communicate and interact with their players in real time, creating a truly personalised experience for every player.
In the European regulatory context, Dutch testing agency NMi has announced its accreditation by the Danish and Schleswig-Holstein online gambling regulators. The company is sharing a booth with responsible gambling accreditation specialists G4, and the two organisations will be working closely together.
Microgaming has maintained its major presence at ICE this year with an exhibit that emphasises its wide range of branded games and the geographic spread of its activities as a turnkey software provider. This industry veteran covers every aspect of internet gambling and supporting technology with its products, boasts a diverse games inventory of over 600 offerings in 24 languages, and supplies its products to more than 160 of the internet gambling industry’s top websites.
The stand is fronted by a large, metres-wide multi-screen presentation showing the company’s services and games around the world, and will continue to expand its games selection with new monthly releases, including some interesting new concepts in February.
Playtech, another top industry software developer across the range of online gambling genres, was also noticeable with an ancient Egypt frontage in the exhibition lobby and a large exhibition of its extensive range of products under the theme ‘Online gateway to regulated markets’.
The company used ICE to make several major announcements: The acquisition of a long desired sports betting channel through the GBP15 million purchase of Geneity, founded by former Openbet managers, and two major joint ventures in Germany and South Africa that are designed to strengthen the firm’s presence in regulated gambling nations, or those likely to do so soon.
Geneity, together with Playtech’s internal software development capability and the group’s mobile subsidiary Mobenga, has considerable potential; whilst the JVs with Germany’s Gauselmann-Merkur and South Africa’s land gambling Peermont group position Playtech strongly in those markets should positive regulatory developments occur.
A new slot based on the popular Deal or No Deal television game has recently been released.
Amaya Gaming, a Montreal-based group that acquired software developer Chartwell Technology and is currently negotiating to take control of Cryptologic attracted a lot of attention on opening day. Manning staff hinted at more significant acquisitions by the Canadian-investor-backed company, which has made a substantial industry impact over the past year.
Amaya was successful in securing a content supply deal for the online operations of Loto Quebec and is on the lookout for more opportunities. The company has a new games release plan of at least two fresh games every month going forward, with Joker Jester and Aladdins Legacy among its recent releases.
Less well-known, but making its presence felt at ICE this year, is 36Gaming, a Malta-based online gambling software developer offering turnkey and white label services and a growing range of games from its development studios in Cyprus.
36Gaming managers showed off a new browser-based 5 reel, 9 pay-line fantasy monster-themed slot dubbed The Sirylian Dragon, which features free spins and bonus rounds, and promised a release plan of two games a month in the year ahead.
The merger of Swedish software provider NYX Interactive and the Sydney, Australia-based games developer NextGen Gaming has seen the two companies gain from one another and set up headquarters in London under Matt Davey.
In addition to the companies’ well known and more conventional online gambling products, development is well advanced on an innovative and social networking oriented offering that will enable white label and other operators to translate virtual action to real money action in the Facebook environment.
New game releases include the 5 reel, 50 pay-line 3D-style slot Merlin’s Millions, Oil Mania and Pizza Prize.
Plus Five Gaming, the online gambling white label turnkey provider that includes services and products from AliQuantum, Aberrant, AlchemyBet, Cellectivity, eNet Poker and others, appeared to be popular with visitors and reported a games content agreement with Casino Technology.
The prolific internet scratch card, instant games and slots developer Neogames continued to grow and innovate, this year showcasing its recently launched Horoscope, Go777 and Postcard games, which offer the player interactive choices of skin and multi-games in a single package.
With a release schedule of 3 to 4 new games every month, watch out for a magic-themed, highly interactive game branded Sampo, featuring 4 different optional skins and two games in one. The company is also about to release ‘Smile’, a back-to-basics simple and straightforward slot for which there has apparently been significant player demand.
Neogames will also launch ‘Forever After’, a romantically themed fairy tale of a game in time for Valentines Day which is described as a mix of both slot and instant game. On the launch pad is a fresh look at keno….and the company will be augmenting its range with the introduction of new lottery games.
If German law and politics can get its act together, the German software developer Edict will be well placed. Founded in 2002, the company started out live-streaming action from two German land casinos, but had to cease operations in 2008 due to the advent of the German Treaty. Despite the commercial risks it presented, the company was taken over by far-sighted execs of the Gauselmann-Merkur group, who saw the potential for a company that could adapt its large range of popular land games for the internet industry.
The result is a Hamburg and Isle of Man-based firm which is strongly positioned for a truly liberalised German market, and already has its first international licensee in Sunmaker.com.
Edict’s HD-quality Craps and Sic Bo products are impressive examples of cutting-edge internet games development that caught the eye of many ICE visitors Tuesday.