Models Dressed In Revealing Costumes At Controversial ICE Gambling Trade Show Despite Code Of Conduct
Last week saw the return of the annual ICE London exhibition, which bills itself as ‘the Global Gaming Hub for all B2B industry experts’. It sees people from across the gambling industry come together to show off developments that have been achieved over the previous twelve months, with more than 35,000 people in attendance.
Those that were there this year will have seen models wearing either very little or else outfits that were designed to titillate, which has caused something of a stir. Questions are being asked about why there is a need for women to used as ‘bait’ to attract male attendees to look further into products given that it’s the year 2020.
Promoting gambling in relation to sex or anything that may make it seem more attractive has been banned in the UK for a long time. This however is an industry event, not for punters, and is not held by the same code. Still many would expect these companies to lead by example in this regard.
What Is ICE?
When ICE was first formed the acronym stood for International Casinos Exhibition, with the idea being that land-based casinos would come and show off their latest innovations. The casino industry has moved on leaps and bounds since then, of course, and nowadays most casinos either operate online or else have a strong online presence.
The acronym has remained even whilst the event that it represents has changed in extreme ways. The modern version of ICE London aims to strike a balance between the world of digital betting and land-based venues, with the overriding theme still being gaming. The event is organised and arranged by Clarion Gaming, which is part of Clarion Events.
Who The Event Is For
ICE London is aimed squarely at gaming professionals, with no ‘punters’ in attendance. It’s for people who want to source new products and services in the worlds of betting, bingo, casino, lotteries, sports betting, eSports and more. Anyone who is anyone in the world of gaming will almost certainly attend ICE London every year.
That includes some of the biggest names in betting, with the various companies that send along representatives hoping to either win business or else pay someone else to make their lives easier and the products that they offer richer. Most people there will either be looking to buy something or sell their wares, so the various companies do what they can to stand out from the crowd.
The Controversy This Year
One of the things that some companies decided to do this year in order to stand out from the crowd was to use models and promo-girls to entice people over to look at the product that they were associated with. Some of them walked the hall in the ExCel, where the conference was being held, handing out leaflets and promoting giveaways.
The controversy around it was perhaps best summed up by the Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who said, “Having seen pictures from the ICE conference of scantily clad women being used by overseas gambling companies to once again promote their organisations to men in suits, I can’t help but feel disappointed. Time and again, this industry appears to be totally lacking in morals and decency”.
The major criticism is that women have been objectified in order to appeal to an audience that is made up predominantly of straight men, with the marketing methods being ‘outdated and unnecessary’, according to Harris. There was also a problem with exhibitors engaging in racial stereotypes by having white actors dress up costumes to portray Asian or Egyptian characters.
There Is A Code Of Conduct
Clarion Gaming, the company behind ICE London, introduced a Code Of Conduct for the event last year in the wake of criticism for one company after they’d used pole dancers during the conference in 2018. The Code Of Conduct declares that ‘partial or total nudity or overtly sexual or suggestive clothing or marketing methods will not be allowed’.
In spite of the criticism that has been levelled at ICE London, the organisers said that only one exhibitor had actually breached the Code and they’d been spoken to immediately. Even so, it’s not a good look for ICE when you consider that the Gambling Commission had threatened to boycott the event in the past over its apparent sexism.
The former boss of the Gambling Commission, Sarah Harrison, led the calls for ICE London to get its house in order in 2018. She said:
“A woman from the gambling industry is Britain’s highest paid boss. Yet from walking around the exhibition you wouldn’t know this. Instead you saw men representing their companies wearing expensive tailored suits whilst their female colleagues were expected to wear nothing more than swimsuits”.
It’s The Organiser’s Responsibility
Ultimately the Gambling Commission feels that it’s the responsibility of the conference organisers to ensure that the Code Of Conduct is upheld, as well as what things qualify a breach of said Code. Neil McArthur is the current boss of the UKGC, which said, “It is a matter for the organisers to enforce that code…The organisers should enforce the code”.
A spokesperson for the UKGC went on to say that the governing body did not think it was ‘acceptable’ and that they ‘called the organisers out’ on the matter of sexism two years ago. Ultimately, they said, “Our focus is making sure that gambling is safer for British consumers”. It’s passing the buck to an extent, but how much responsibility lies with the Gambling Commission?
Is It Sexist Or Just ‘Harmless Fun’?
The toughest question to answer over the use of models and promo girls at the ICE London event is whether or not it is actually sexist. After all, there were also men dressed in very little being used to attract people to stalls in order for companies to sell products. Certainly the Lord Bishop of St Albans believes that it is wrong for the gambling industry to rely on sexist imagery.
The religious leader said:
“Gambling firms are currently free to advertise their products and market their companies in a largely free way. With that freedom comes responsibility. Sexualised objectification, in any form, is totally unacceptable for any industry, particularly one that has been repeatedly warned about their marketing behaviour”.
He also said that ‘all options for finding solutions’ to the issues around marketing and advertising for gambling companies were ‘on the table’ as gambling firms continue to be under scrutiny. The fact that it was an industry trade show and no customers were there, as well as the fact that no one under eighteen could enter, meant that the usual rules abhor sex and gambling didn’t apply.
Flavio Grasselli was a conference delegate from Italy. He happily stood with women dressed as mermaids in order to have his picture taken, believing that there was nothing unethical about using women to sell products. He said:
“Gambling is linked with the forbidden…sensuality of a woman and the sensuality of the roulette wheel are naturally linked”.
Grasselli felt as though he was at something more akin to a music festival than a conference and that he was ‘like a child in a park’. One of the models hired by Kajot, Zenede, said that ICE London was a conference ‘for fun people’ and that it’s ‘great’, with the cat suit being chosen as an outfit for her to wear because ‘the people like it’.