uilding from a once small, Malta-focused event to a global industry standout, MiGS continued to impress with its unique way of blending high-level business with epic-level fun.
MiGS used its locale and the industry’s insatiable appetite for networking to its advantage. As any previous iGaming conference attendee will attest, the networking events and parties are where the majority of deals get done. Some delegates got a bonus networking evening with the free roll poker tournament on Monday, sponsored by PokerStars and Intercomp. Tuesday launched the conference itself and with it, frequent breaks and networking-minded lunches to fuel attendees and their conversations.
As an area of economic growth for Malta, the government welcomes the iGaming industry and events like MiGS that support it. Tuesday started with welcoming remarks delivered by the Hon. Chris Cardona, Malta’s Minister of the Economy, Investment and Small Business and Joe Cuschieri, head of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). Cuschieri stressed the adaptations that the MGA is making to stay ahead of the curve as a licensing jurisdiction.
A highlight of the conference came from a panel of industry legends that collectively share over 100 years of experience on the front lines of iGaming. The ‘Century of iGaming’ session brought together: Mark Blandford, founder of SportingBet, Paris Smith CEO of Pinnacle Sports, Franz Wohlfahrt, recently retired CEO of Novomatic, Pontus Lindwall who launched Betsson NetEnt and Calvin Ayre of Bodog (via Skype). They reminisced about what they did right and what they did wrong while learning the ropes of a still-forming industry. Moderated by Sue Schneider, a pioneering iGaming figure in her own right and MiGS partner, the panelists also looked at how the industry is still evolving, where the growth potential lies, how the balance between business and government can be achieved and the importance of technology in the industry. That session can be viewed in its entirety at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ee3QRATPPwU&feature=youtu.be .
Attendees want attention-grabbing topics with recognizable names presenting them and MiGS delivered on both fronts. No topic was off limits as too controversial or too difficult, so panels like ‘The Increasing Cost of Doing Business’ and ‘Sport and Betting: Works as One Team to Safeguard Mutual Survival’ were big draws. Topics covered in the more interactive session format called ‘Fishbowl Conversations’ included Payments, Advocacy and eSports/Fantasy Sports and were debated by upper echelon speakers from companies like PayPal, Secure Trading, World Pay, Apco Ltd, Pinnacle Sports, Chroma, GosuGamers.net as well as leading industry associations like RGA, EGBA and the Senet Group.
When the industry gets together for an event like MiGS, it’s inevitable that there will be decadent dinners and luxe parties. What’s not so commonplace is for an industry event to combine those and make it a charitable endeavor, but that’s what the BIG Foundation Dinner achieved. Raising over €10.000 for local charity Puttinu Cares and the internationally-known St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, MiGS delegates were exceedingly generous while be generously wined and dined at the Caviar & Bull, one of Malta’s finest restaurants. The inimitable John Barnes, former Liverpool footballer and ESPN pundit, enlightened those in attendance with his thoughts on the sport. He also added his thoughts on the importance of educating the player in efforts to keep the sport clean in the match-fixing panel the next day.
From the poker tournament kickoff to zorb football to the closing party at Aria that featured an ABBA tribute band (sponsored by AliQuantum Gaming and Plus-Five Gaming), the sponsors and organisers stepped up to provide memorable experiences and settings. With 18 exhibitors and 39 sponsors, MiGS was able to ensure attendees could find any business service they needed without having to do much work for it. MiGS is at that perfect size for an iGaming event – big enough to attract the major players and small enough that you can still talk to everyone you want to talk to. Reports of deals being made were coming back to the organizers throughout the event.
MiGS also enjoyed a diverse delegation with 40% of the attendance coming from outside Malta and a total of 22 countries represented; a testament to the broad popularity of the event’s content and format. As the Honorable Herrera, Malta’s Parliamentary Secretary for Competiveness and Economic Growth said in the closing presentation, “MiGS is the ideal event for anyone involved in the industry to come together to share best practices and ideas.” He recognized the great opportunity for networking MiGS provides and how it serves as a showcase for those seeking employment. Herrera communicated how proud he is of the growth of the event and how it attracts such an international crowd.
An ancillary benefit to attending MiGS is meeting other people important to those in the industry and connecting through them. As Sue Schneider noted “I think one of the nice things about this conference in Malta was how many folks brought spouses, significant others and friends along to stay on the front and back end [of the conference] to enjoy the island. It was great to meet all of these folks”. It’s a testimony to the professional yet relaxed vibe at MiGS and not something that is easily cultivated at a business conference. It’s what makes MiGS unique and sets it apart from other “cookie cutter”-type conferences.