In any other year a trip to the World Gaming Executive Summit (WGES) would be in the diaries of many of the industry’s senior leaders, but 2020’s unique circumstances mean the conference is now an online event running on 8-9 December.
SBC News caught up with WGES Project Manager Sam Milliken to find out what delegates can expect from the much-changed event.
SBC: For reasons that we’re all too familiar with, WGES will be in a very different format this year. What have you got planned for the event?
SM: The plan is to focus heavily on the content and the 1-2-1 meetings like you would normally expect at the physical editions that everyone knows and loves at the W Hotel, Barcelona, but with a twist around efficiency.
The reason for this is we want to provide a sense of normality by immersing our audience in detailed content from behind the screen, whilst with our platform, Swapcard, there is a multi-purpose feature that allows you to watch streams, network and hold conversations simultaneously.
SBC: After a year that has seen both huge disruption and real progress for the betting and gaming industry, what have emerged as the key themes for the WGES agenda?
SM: Fortunately, the gaming industry in 2020 has seen an influx of users due to everyone working from home and has not suffered anywhere near as badly in comparison to other industries, such as hospitality and aviation. This means that the key themes this year can focus on M&As, esports, the changing regulatory position in numerous markets, the growth of US betting, and how land-based casinos have combatted COVID-19.
SBC: The agenda features a number of keynote interviews and panels; who will be participating in them?
SM: This year provides the audience with what they have been asking of WGES for numerous years: new content, new players, and new relationships. We’ve really tried to shake up and refresh the industry with some exciting new content and speakers, whilst retaining the heavyweights that everyone loves.
The areas that stand out for me include: the opening keynotes with Ezra Kucharz of DraftKings, Paris Smith of Pinnacle, and Irina Cornides of Gamesys; our closing keynote with LADbible and Heineken; a roundtable with AFC Ajax; a Digital Disruption panel with Google, Facebook and Formula 1; and our horse betting panel on Day 2 with Dennis Drazin of Monmouth Park, Dallas Baker of The BetMakers, Jamie Hart of UK Tote Group and the moderator Bill Pascrell III.
SBC: With the event having moved online, how do you think the makeup of the audience will differ this year from previous editions of WGES?
SM: WGES 2020 has shaped up to be one of the most interesting and global gaming events I have ever worked on. The silver lining with 2020 is that everyone is working from home, meaning participants have more time to join sessions, speak and network from their computers.
However, we’re still keeping WGES C-Level with around 1,000 attendees, as we are focusing on the quality of delegates and not the quantity.
SBC: How have you found the job of organising a virtual event? Are the challenges very different to arranging a physical event?
SM: The challenges for virtual events are very different to physical ones. There is more behind-the-scenes work with a virtual event than any physical event I’ve ever worked on. There are also more technical problems that can go wrong in virtual, such as the live stream link not working, which delays the live session.
All of this is added stress that we never experience at a physical event, as we always do test runs, but that’s something not possible in the virtual world.