Eag Expo: well begun is half gaming

09 January 2023 - 11:28

John White, Ceo of the Bacta association, explains the subjects at the center of Eag expo, scheduled in January, 10-12, at the ExCeL in London. With an eye to the industry trends and the political situation of the United Kingdom.

Written by Fm

2023 opens with one of the most important meeting and discussion opportunities for the gaming sector: in fact, in January, 10-12, the ExCeL in London will host the Eag Expo, the international amusement, attractions and gaming fair.
John White, Ceo of Bacta, the trade association of the United Kingdom, owner of the brand and organizer of the event, talks about the content and takes the opportunity to explore the trend of the entertainment industry in the United Kingdom and the requests from Bacta to the Anglo-Saxon Government regarding the long-awaited reform of the sector, and to explain why Eag 2023 is so vitally important for operators in the entertainment and gaming sectors.


What were the years of 2020-2021 like for your industry, how is 2022 going and what are the trends in the amusement and low-stakes gaming market for 2023?

"There is no doubt the lockdowns decided to contain the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant and long-lasting impact on the sector, despite very welcome government support. Balance sheets were exhausted and a number of businesses had to increase their debt burden to get through the nightmare. Since re-opening however trading has for the Agc – Adult Gaming Centres and Fec – Family entertainment center sectors returned to pre-pandemic levels. Single site operators however have seen a large number of sites disappear. Investment in new product has been strong as the sector displays confidence in the future. That future however has become more uncertain as the cost of doing business and in particular, energy prices have hit us hard. Furthermore, as government sets the maximum price of play on gaming machines and given the constraints of physical coinage, we can’t pass costs on to consumers. Added to that any operators cannot reclaim Vat on costs associated with gaming machines. Operators across the industry are therefore looking for quality products for their customers so they can build the cash box through enhanced entertainment".


Overall, what can visitors expect from Eag 2023?

"I think the 2023 edition of Eag has all of the credentials to be one of the most memorable of recent times. The show floor is packed with the industry’s most innovative games creators covering every relevant product sector. Demand for space has been very healthy and pre-registration is showing double-digit like for like growth on Eag 2020 – the last edition prior to the pandemic. The Eag seminar programme is strong, the Eag hubs dedicated to safer gambling and bingo will serve as focal points on the show floor and there’s a sense, certainly amongst bacta members that this is the first real post-Covid edition at which the industry will be able to make investment decisions with a better understanding of what the future looks like. As Eag Chairman, Martin Burlin argued recently during difficult times it is more important than ever to deliver a great visitor experience and for families, leisure becomes an even more important escape. But they will demand value and they will demand an experience. Operators must have their venues equipped to meet these challenges and the best place to source the equipment to deliver that experience is at Eag. The show sets the tone of the year ahead and I genuinely believe it’s a not to be missed once a year opportunity".


What topics are being covered by the Eag seminar programme?

"We’ve worked hard to produce a seminar programme which will help operators improve business performance. There’s a total of six seminars over two days which will feature 21-thought leaders covering safer gambling, political engagement, social media, entertainment trends, pubs and clubs as well as the broader hospitality sector. We wanted to provide visitors with the opportunity to listen to and engage with speakers who are expert in their field. Research conducted in the events sector shows that seminars or a learning programme encourage attendance and we’ve identified topics which will mean something to every operator. Each session will last an hour and will be delivered in an engaging way, packed with useful, practical information to take away. I should add how gratifying it is to confirm the participation of Kate Nicholls Obe, chief executive of UK Hospitality. Kate continues to be arguably the most powerful advocate for the hospitality sector and I was encouraged to read about her views on pub entertainment and the role that our sector, both gaming and non-gaming, plays in delivering a rounded social entertainment experience. The seminars are free to attend and an important part of the Eag experience".


How will Eag represent safer gambling?

"Eag 2023 will feature what we believe to be the first safer gambling hub dedicated to the low-stake, low-prize gambling entertainment sector. The hub will feature leading not for profit organisations and charities including BetKnowmore, Breakeven, Esg Gaming, GamStop, GamCare and Ygam. Our aim is to make the Hub into a ‘go-to’ at-show feature for everyone wanting to learn more about the latest thinking in safer gambling and meet with some of the leading authorities in the space. For a number of years, we have gifted space to safer gambling organisations participating in Eag but this will be the first occasion that we have brought everyone together in a dedicated feature. The low-stake Hub is part of bacta’s unequivocal commitment to safer gambling and complements the work being undertaken by our Social Responsibility Committee, chaired by Novomatic UK’s Elizabeth Speed and our Social Responsibility Exchange which provides bacta members with an opportunity to share best practice tactics and strategies. Safer gambling is at the forefront of what bacta members do on a daily basis and I am delighted that it will also be centre stage at Eag".


Are you introducing any other new features to the Eag show floor?

"I am delighted to confirm that Eag will also be showcasing the best of bingo with some of the leading suppliers to the industry featuring in the Eag Bingo Hub which has been organised in partnership with our colleagues at the Bingo Association. The central hub will feature specialist bingo suppliers comprising Shipley Creative, Ecm Systems Ltd, Cowells Arrow, Isd Computer Services, Wexel Gaming, Nrm and Willow Communication. There has always been a cross-over between bingo on the one hand and the amusements/low stake gaming sectors on the other so it makes infinite sense to harness that synergy and create a dedicated area where the bingo industry can meet and access the key suppliers. I look forward to seeing the Bingo Hub go from strength to strength".


How important is it for the sector to return to face-to-face exhibitions?

"It’s absolutely essential and we’ve experienced the buzz, the energy, the sense of community and belonging following the return of face-to-face. Whilst that is true across industry sectors, I think it’s particularly important for amusements and low-stake gaming which are based on personal contact. Video conferencing has been a wonderful new way of maintaining contact but I see it as being a transactional one-dimensional experience. Eag stakeholders want to meet the person or people they are going to do business with, sit down with them, share a coffee and get a sense of who they are and whether the products/services they are marketing will meet requirements. Ours is the definition of a people-based business sector and as good as it is, Zoom does not deliver those human insights that in-person or live events are based upon, which is why anticipation for Eag in January is so intense".


What are you asking the new Uk Government for in order to reform the gaming sector?

"We need our government to reform the gaming laws in Great Britain to allow for innovation. We have put forward a number of very modest suggestions as part of the current review of the Gb’s Gambling Act. These include linked jampots, altering the permitted ratio of Category B3 machines to other machines, and allowing the use of debit cards. The gaming machine industry is the only sector of the economy where a customer is prevented from choosing to use a modern method of payment to pay for their entertainment".

THE SEMINAR PROGRAMME – These are the highlights of Eag's educational seminar programme, dedicated to key issues affecting today's entertainment and leisure industry, and all free of charge.
It begins on Tuesday, the 10th, with three appointments: the "Annual Summit of Pubs and Clubs", an opportunity for operators and club owners to directly engage on issues that directly affect machine performance, from public order to operating profits; "Safer Gambling - A guide to "how improving customer engagement," featuring experts in the field of safer gambling to discuss the industry's progress in modernizing customer engagement and what steps can be taken to increase current practices; "Tagging, Posting, Tweeting: How to Use Social Media to Increase Visitors to Your Venue and Players to Your Products", which proposes again the famous Bacta webinar held earlier this year, which deepened the very simple ways where one can use the power of social media and its free analytics to market the premises and products to a targeted audience.

On Wednesday, the 11th, the program includes: "Politics is for everyone: what you and your clients need to know and how to effectively interact with politicians", which deepens what is happening inside the British Government and the prospects of a Labor victory in the next elections, also thinking about the implications it could have for the leisure sector from an economic and public policy point of view; "The Social Entertainment Opportunity for Fun - The Latest Trend of 'Competitive Socializing' and Its Impact on the Amusement and Hospitality Industries," in which leading industry specialist, Kevin Williams of Spider Entertainment, will examine the operations that are defining this new trend, explore its impact on the future thinking and, more importantly, the revenue of the entertainment and hospitality sectors; "Energy is expensive: 10 easy ways to cut your bills", to find out what steps to take to reduce your energy bills and achieve zero - carbon.


View the event programme:


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