The ICE gambling expo will move from London to Barcelona in 2025 due to dramatically lower costs and because the conference is close to outgrowing its London venue, according to organiser Clarion Gaming.
Hotels in Barcelona are expected to be 30 to 40 percent cheaper than in London, said Stuart Hunter, managing director of Clarion Gaming Events.
The Fira de Barcelona venue is 240,000 square metres, more than twice the size of the ExCeL Centre, and the conference is nearing the London venue’s 90,000 square metre capacity, he said.
The move follows an 18-month review prompted by rising London costs worsened by Brexit, which added layers of red tape and new expenses for exhibitors coming from the European Union.
Brexit pressures played a role in the decision, but other factors such as the larger size of the Spanish venue also played into the decision to move, the Clarion executives said.
The move will bring to an end 80-plus years of history for the trade show in the UK, long before the advent of internet gambling.
Also moving to Barcelona from London will be ICE’s sister show, iGB Affiliate, Clarion said.
But moving to London from its current Amsterdam location will be the company’s iGB L!VE conference, held this year in July.
ICE will be held in London one last time on February 6-8, 2024, before it resurfaces on January 20-22, 2025 in Barcelona.
“We had to decide where ICE needs to be in terms of what it offers the industry over the next ten years,” Hunter said.
In February 2023, Clarion said it was considering Madrid and Paris as future sites, along with Barcelona and London.
Locations outside Europe were considered, but about 86 percent of all ICE attendees come from Europe, the executives said.
Research suggested that it is cheaper for British attendees coming from areas other than London to fly to Barcelona than to take a train to London, due to the high costs of British train travel, the executives said.
Even London-based companies lodge half their ICE attendees in hotels, they said.
London is nevertheless a much bigger air flight hub than Barcelona, which will force some attendees to travel from Asia via Dubai, said Alex Pratt, managing director of Clarion Events.
But research suggests that the average Asian company will be able to save €500 to €600 per person in Barcelona versus London, and surveys indicated that companies were satisfied with the trade-off, he said.
The Barcelona facilities are big enough to house the Mobile World Congress, which claims 80,000 or so attendees to ICE’s 40,000, the executives said.
An ICE advisory board voted 15-5, with one abstention, to approve the move to Barcelona, the two executives said.
A Clarion staff member declined to name the members of the advisory board, citing non-disclosure agreements, but said they represent a range of geographies and both land-based and online companies.
As the show in Barcelona will be bigger relative to its host city than ICE is to London, Clarion was able to reserve 40,000 hotel room nights and limit their price increases to rises in inflation for the next five years, the executives said.
It can also request more public transport if necessary, they said.
The average London hotel room in February this year was £196.26 per night, according to RMS UK, a consulting firm.
In contrast, Barcelona hotel rooms averaged €169 (£145) that month, with prices soaring in summer, according to Statista.
Also being supplied from Spanish sources is “quite a significant amount” of public funding, the executives said.
Two of the biggest exhibitors, Germany’s Gauselmann and Austria’s Novomatic, had incurred big cost rises linked to Brexit, with Gauselmann urging a move to Europe in February 2022.
Both bring in hundreds of staff and outside workers, along with slot machines and equipment, incurring Brexit red tape, including visas, customs duties and exhaustive requirements to itemise goods and equipment.
Both cited Brexit, along with concerns about COVID-19 exposure and a pandemic-related postponement to Easter week, as reasons for avoiding the 2022 event, but they returned in 2023.
Brexit pressures played a role in the move from London, but were not the only factor, the two men said.
A spokesperson from Novomatic expressed pleasure at the announcement.
“We welcome the decision and are delighted about the new location in Barcelona from 2025,” she said. “Furthermore, we are confident that this leading trade show will take place in its accustomed high quality.”
Gauselmann did not respond to a request for comment in time for deadline.
ICE, today one of the UK’s biggest industry conferences, has its roots in a British trade show for gaming machines that dates to 1936.
ICE 2023 in London brought in “marginally” more revenue than pre-COVID events, but inflation eroded profit, the Clarion executives said.
Additional reporting by Harrison Sayers