ICE North America Digital Kicks Off Monday With Gaming Experts + Distanced Networking

While gaming industry professionals nationwide were set to arrive in New Orleans this week to attend ICE North America, now more than 1,700 registrants (and counting) are planning to meet virtually. 

The live-stream ICE North America Digital event will focus on “post-COVID-19 progress.” The week-long event will cover land-based and online gaming as well as sports betting and the growing hospitality tech sector.

Originally slated for three full days, the event has been drawn out across five days (three hours daily) to consider time constraints of attendees, as well as attention span in a digital atmosphere. 

“We thought it was unrealistic for people to spend full days at this event. So we thought it was more manageable to do three hours per day,” ICE North America Event Director Rory Credland told Legal Sports Report. Running from Monday, May 11, to Friday, May 15, the three-hour days commence at 8.30 am PST / 11:30 am EST. 

The free gathering of operators, suppliers and regulators is accessible (with registration) via desktop, or via the Clarion Gaming Lounge app, available for download through the Apple App Store and Google Play. 

Among the dozens of forward-thinking speakers featured during ICE North America Digital will be Tribal gaming experts Ernie Stevens, Jr., National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Chairman and a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, and Victor Rocha, NIGA Conference Chair and President of Victor Strategies, and a member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. 

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the interest from the industry, not only from the companies wanting to use the event to showcase their products and services, but also the high quality of speakers we’ve been able to attract,” Credland said in a news release. “A lot of the focus is going to be on how we get through these tricky few months and put in place strategies to ensure we emerge stronger, but there will also be good business development opportunities that people expect from our conferences.”

NIGA’s relationship with Clarion Gaming, host of ICE North America (ICE NA) and now ICE NA Digital, is well established. Ahead of the first-ever ICE NA event, hosted May 13-15, 2019, in Boston, NIGA and Clarion confirmed their strategic partnership. In February 2020 at ICE Totally Gaming in London, Clarion presented Stevens with its Landmark Award in recognition of his enormous contributions to Indian gaming and the industry at large, as well as his support for the development of the ICE brand, including the launch of ICE North America. As a Clarion partner, NIGA has been instrumental in the pivot of ICE NA to ICE NA Digital. 

Ernie Stevens, Jr. became the first recipient of an ICE Landmark award, bestowed when he attended the world’s biggest gaming technology event as the guest of event organizers, Clarion Gaming.

At ICE NA Digital, Rocha, along with Ewa Bakun, Director of Industry Insight and Engagement at Clarion Gaming, will co-host Tuesday morning’s session, “Introduction & Legislators Expose.” Senior legislators and regulators will answer what COVID-19 means for sports betting and gambling regulations in the U.S.

Rocha will also partake in the Weekly Wrap-Up on Friday, in which all anchors involved throughout ICE NA Digital will debate what the future of the industry will look like in 2021. 

As of Sunday, the virtual agenda was mostly fleshed out, but included some blanks, like Friday’s keynote speaker. 

Overall, it was challenging to repurpose a physical event to reach a virtual audience, Credland said. “We are so used to doing physical events, so we had to tear it up and go back to the drawing board,” he said. 

COVID-19 spurred Clarion Gaming to be flexible and innovative — not just with a physical to digital move, but with content as well. “In the current coronavirus environment, things are changing by the second, and we can change our content to reflect that,” Credland said. One advantage of the digital pivot was attracting new customers who wouldn’t have otherwise traveled to attend in-person in New Orleans, he added. 

A key element inevitably lost with a transition from a live environment to a digital landscape are key relationships formed “on the edges of conferences,” as Legal Sports Report put it. But Clarion has figured out ways to recreate, to a degree, those more intimate connections. 

“There will be lots of networking going on through our peer-to-peer technology. You can request meetings online but also in Q&A sessions. We won’t quite be able to replicate the New Orleans experience, but we’ll do our best,” Credland said. 

AI powered matchmaking spots “like-minders,” according to ICE NA Digital’s “How to Access the Event” page, and in a few clicks, participants can chat “face-to-face” with people they want to meet.

In addition, Friday features a “Networking Party” — a virtual space to make connections “in the age of self-quarantine.”

Credland clarified that “physically interacting” is vital in the long-term, and Clarion fully intends to return to physical events as soon as possible. But a digital interface is an important tool, now and always. It’s a “compliment product to our normal events, not a replacement,” Credland underscored. 

Here’s ICE NA Digital’s five-day overview: 

  • Monday, May 11: iGaming and iLottery
  • Tuesday, May 12. Sports betting and performance marketing
  • Wednesday, May 13: Brick-and-mortar and hospitality
  • Thursday, May 14: Responsible gaming, and property management
  • Friday, May 15: Keynote presentations and wrap-up party
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