Merkur Gaming Group, the second-largest ICE London exhibitor, has said it is pulling out of the gambling conference due to concerns about COVID-19, the conference’s proximity to Easter and the impact of Brexit red tape.
The largest ICE exhibitor, Austria-based Novomatic, is not a sure thing either, as the machines manufacturer said it is “monitoring and evaluating the current developments very carefully”.
Heathrow Airport will be rammed with Easter travellers and COVID-19 concerns are paramount, said David Orrick, Merkur’s director of industry relations.
Although Brexit is a “done deal”, the red tape that comes with it is causing no end of headaches for Merkur as it has been importing slot machines manufactured in Germany to British arcades, he said.
“Delays have been excessive,” Orrick said.
In 2020, Gauselmann took 19 articulated lorries to ICE, so said it is especially concerned about the bureaucracy involved with moving machines and exhibition equipment in and out of the UK, he said.
“We simply do not know what additional regulatory paperwork, what regulatory requirements there will be,” he told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.
Brexit paperwork requirements are daunting. A French overview of customs guidelines — not the actual regulations — run to 83 pages.
Full customs import declarations for goods moving from the EU to Great Britain kicked in on January 1 this year.
Novomatic is taking a wait-and-see stance on ICE, which has traditionally been the world’s largest gambling conference.
A Novomatic spokeswoman said she could offer no further comment on how or when the company would make up its mind.
“We have acknowledged the decision of Merkur Gaming,” she said.
In 2020, Novomatic celebrated its 40th anniversary by pouring 5,000 pints of beer and delivering 9,000 “Wiener Würstels” at ICE.
Its 5,000-square metre exhibition space had 30 meeting rooms, a VIP reception and display chambers, plus a “Hall of Game” exhibit of vintage machines.
Novomatic’s display had three project managers, took more than 100 workers to assemble and disassemble, and was transported in 50 articulated lorries, the company said.
In 2020, Merkur debuted Merkur Roulette, 12 new games and machines with biometric youth protection check capability.
ICE Vox, ICE London and iGB Affiliate were cancelled last year due to COVID-19 restrictions and so far this year have been postponed from early February to April 11-14.
In a statement, Merkur said it was “completely unable” to accept the new dates because COVID-19 is “still a major health risk issue”, plus “additional logistical difficulties” stemming from Brexit.
“All of these factors combine to reach the inescapable conclusion that the visitor numbers (both those UK-based and those wishing to travel from overseas) will be severely impacted in a negative way, the show will be unable to present itself as the world-leading event of recent years, and the practical difficulties for international exhibitors will also be greatly increased,” the company said.
“We have a clear duty of care for our employees and also for our business partners, customers and those who choose to attend the show,” Merkur said.
Clarion Gaming did not respond to emailed requests for comment in time for deadline.
Earlier this month, Clarion Gaming managing director Stuart Hunter cited intensive negotiations with both ExCel conference centre management and California-based Indian Tradeshow & Convention, to avoid conflicts.
This week, Clarion has sent out press releases noting that Simon Thomas of London’s Hippodrome Casino and the European Casino Association support the April schedule.