Opening speech by Per Jaldung (Chairman, ECA)
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2020 version of the International Casino Conference and ICE VOX. The ECA is once again organising this event with our partners Clarion Gaming. The ICC is in its 11th year and we are proud about that. At a speech in 1966 Robert Kennedy once quoted a chinese proverb – “may you live in interesting times “ and I am sure you all agree “in interesting times we live”, When arriving at Heathrow for the ICC and ICE this year we set foot to a Great Britain that has just left the European Union, a Swedish girl unites the youth by addressing the devastating consequences of climate change and an American president surprises the world with his unpredictable actions and comments every day. But it is not only the events on the world stage that are “interesting” its is also the events and developments happening in our industry that sometimes make us speechless and frown. At such times it is always recommendable to take a step back look at what has happened in the industry during last year, what were the reasons for this changes, what are the consequences coming out of it and most important of all, how to benefit – or sometimes – how to mitigate the risks that the changes bring upon our industry. I am sure you all get the picture and have your own thoughts on this.
The ICC is where we all come together to find some sense in all the changes we faced during the year in our industry and Clarion has again put together a program and speakers that will help us doing so. There were also some new and exciting trends and developments in the land-based casino industry over the past year, many of which will be discussed during the coming days. Particularly exciting from my point of view are the developments around sports betting, party gaming pits in casinos, virtual currencies and the increasing trend to reinforce the non-gaming offers of land-based casinos to be real entertainment hotspots. The master class of casinos as an entertainment hot spot is the integrated resort – this concept takes centre stage during this year’s ICE program. We see exciting new developments of this concept like for instance in Cyprus where a Melco Crown operation is under construction. Other projects of this kind are planned for Athens in Greece and always there are rumours for such a development in Spain.
There are however still several challenges mostly regulatory for the European gambling industry and the past year has put the gambling industry in the bad news section again too many times. This has to change. There are unfortunately quite a few examples of this, such as the ban on all forms of gambling advertising in Italy and similar discussions in other countries, regulatory fines for brach of AML regulations, a lack of player protection, including complete ignorance of responsible gambling practices by some actors, continued prevalence of illegal online and land-based gambling and connections between unlicensed online gambling, money laundering and organised crime, even inside the European Union. These are all clear challenges for European countries and the gambling industry itself, which must be tackled in order to ensure that the industry can develop into a sustainable and responsible future. As ECA we feel that we have a strong role to play in this process together with our members, partners and stakeholders, which is why we have developed an ambitious strategy for the coming years.
Under the title “Supporting and promoting Europe’s casinos”, the ECA will continue to advocate for the values and principles of the nationally licensed land-based casino industry in Europe. Among the key objectives will be to provide thought leadership, exchange and development of best practices on key issues for the industry across many topics: Industry trends & digitalisation, Anti-Money Laundering, Corporate Social Responsibility, Responsible Gambling, Diversity & Inclusion and Safety & Security.
Given this overall picture we feel that as association, we have an obligation to be an active contributor to policy debates but just as much implement concrete activities that have an impact on the casino floor and across casino companies. We believe that through our initiatives and in the spirit of collaboration, the industry has the chance to remove itself from the bad news section and develop into a sustainable future and the ECA invites all stakeholders to join forces with us on these topics.
Lastly, we would like to very much thank the Clarion Gaming team for the organisation of the International Casino Conference and ICE London. I wish you fruitful discussions and a great time in the next days.