alvanized by the events of the last 12 months, over 1200 senior executives from 63 countries descended on the CCIB Centre to make this year's event the biggest in its six-year history. Despite the events which have rocked the i-gaming industry since mid 2006, an optimistic mood prevailed at EiG as the industry focused on the new markets and technologies set to fuel future growth.
This year's conference opened with an honest address from Gigi Levi, CEO, 888.com, in which he acknowledged that the industry had been complacent when it came to embracing new Web 2.0 technologies, stating “We’ve been good at marketing and missed many trends critical to the growth of our industry.”
The list of mega trends Levi claimed the industry had failed to implement successfully included localisation, segmentation, personalisation, communities, virtual worlds & the over-50 demographic.
Levi concluded his address with a battle cry to the industry, in which he urged: “What most operators are missing is that there are two battles out there. One for money, but another battle which is much bigger and that is for (players) time. Time is at a premium and we need to make sure we are a better entertainment service.”
This year's CEO panel, which featured industry leaders; Andrew McIver, Sportingbet; Petter Nylander, Unibet; Ron Martin, Neteller; and Jez San, PKR.com, took a resolute stance when questioned about the effects that UIGEA has had on the industry. Talking candidly about the last year, Neteller's Ron Martin remarked: “It has clearly been a challenging year; personally it’s not been fun. You deal with the cards that have been dealt and currently we sit in a comfortable position.”
Eastern Europe emerged as one of the core markets for growth over the next 12 months, alongside Asia, a view shared by Sportingbet's Andy McIver: “If you can get payment processing right you can crack Asia. South America has payment problems, so you almost end up looking at Eastern Europe by default. "
All panel members agreed that Web 2.0 is set to have a massive impact on i-gaming, with PKR's Jez San drawing comparisons with the video games market: “20 years ago computer games came from a 2D, text-based, top-down view point but got more realistic and social and that’s what people want. That’s the next level; be more inclusive and be more immersive.”
EiG closed with a high-level panel session which included Mitch Garber, CEO, PartyGaming (Gibraltar), Fabio Schiavolin, CEO, Mr Toto (Italy) and Joel Hasse Ferreira, MEP, European Union.
The panel addressed the role of branding in i-gaming, with many operators investing heavily in marketing in recent years. Would 2008 see a continuation of this trend? Mitch Garber was not convinced: “The reason that the brand has become less of a focus is because lots of the public companies, us, 888.com, have had our marketing budgets cut by about 75%”.
The final issue put to the panel focused on what was going to happen with the US market. The panel agreed that patience and perseverance would be key in re-establishing a market place in the US, with Garber commenting: “We're not going to be able to do this in a microwave oven, it's going to happen slowly and surely. We need to show Americans that responsible gaming is possible online.”
EiG also saw a 43% growth in the exhibition space taken for 2007. New exhibitors included Neteller, xmoPoker, Red Planet Gaming, BetGenius, eNation Corporation, firstprepay, Skill Gaming Ltd., SkillGround, NYX Interactive, Betsoft Gaming, GameVillage, Cantor Gaming, CWC Gaming, enetpulse and Initial Poker.
The feedback from the exhibitors was very positive, with Harry Lang of CWC Gaming stating “At EiG this year, you get the people you have arranged meetings with in advance, then you get the surprise ones that pop up on your radar and then you get a guy we have been trying to get a hold of for six months who’s not been interested and then walks up onto our stand and says we need to talk!”. Dave Pope of 192.com concurred saying “We have been very busy again, I reckon this year we have seen a larger number of senior people on the exhibition floor”.