Snapshot from the Bodog party

I’m curled up in the fetal position trying desperately to hide from Mr. Hangover, who wants to be my new best friend. The inside of my mouth feels like sandpaper. I’ve got a splitting headache. I’d ask my liver if it’s ok, but I’m fairly sure it isn’t talking to me right now.

It’s the morning after the London Affiliate Conference 2012, which kicked off on Thursday, 26th January in predictable fashion. People from all over the world flew in to discuss technological and legislative developments and meet their friends and business partners in one of the biggest trade shows of the gambling industry. Here are the highlights:

THE GOOD

It’s got to be one of the oddest diasporas I’ve ever seen, but there’s something a little beautiful about industry figures the world over flying in from South Africa, Israel, Australia and Germany to meet and chat business. Throngs of people surround hundreds of stands, nicking merchandise and chatting to enthusiastic brand personnel. This is an industry that retains its staff, and it’s entirely possible for the same people to turn up to every conference year after year. Of course, this leads to the awkward situation where you’ve forgotten their names and can no longer ask them because you’ve known them for too long. You can only be saved by shoving your newest staff member in their direction and hoping they’ll introduce themselves.

At the stands, affiliate managers clamour for the attention of affiliates. There’s a furious exchange of business cards. Somewhere, a rainforest dies.

Those without stands take up residence at one of the tables provided in the upstairs dining area. Meeting after meeting takes place, with every operator and affiliate claiming a frenetic back-to-back schedule. I begin to suspect that meetings are being scheduled not to discuss business but simply to chat to old friends but in an industry driven almost entirely by relationships, this isn’t such a bad thing.

After a few hours running from stand to stand, we’re grateful for the Europartners bar, where the alcohol flows freely and we can sit and watch the scenery.

THE BAD

Gambling has a reputation for being debaucherous, and perhaps we perpetuate that a little more than we need to. Bodog’s flashy Asian Pagoda got people talking, as did the Rogers Bingo Ducati, but nothing could match the stir caused by the semi-naked bodypainted promo models wandering the floor.

I wonder if there’s a sort of hierarchy within promotional modelling – are the Referback girls jealous of the attention lavished upon the Sun and Jackpot Joy Bingo girls? Is there a fight for the nipple tassels afforded some of the other topless models, or when you’re not wearing a shirt in public does it all become much of a muchness? And does any of it work, when you’ve got women who don’t know where to look and men who are subsequently rendered incapable of coherent or rational thought?

As one industry figure remarked to me, ‘It’s possible to be professional and appealing with your clothes on.’

Promo models are certainly glamorous and they do cause a stir, but what real purpose do they serve when delegates can’t even remember the brand they represent? It’s a throwback to the old days where topless girls were sent into the crowds to elicit some kind of Pavlovian response; I might be in the minority but I question whether they have a place in today’s industry where the former scarcity of female gambling executives is slowly changing.

At the very least, it was ever so much more difficult to get a coffee from the goggle-eyed waitstaff ogling the ladies – and that to me is entirely unacceptable.

THE UGLY

Alcohol: the great social lubricant.

As every delegate knows, there are two rounds of networking. The first is during the day, over coffee or lunch, and the second – arguably more important – round begins at night.

After a few bottles of wine, with heightened emotions and lowered inhibitions, you’re likely to build a closer relationship than you ever could during the day. Fired up with Dutch courage, you can speak honestly, get the scuttlebutt from people in the know and perhaps create some goss of your own. Of course, you run the risk of downing tequila shots and thinking it’s a marvellous idea to create a dancefloor in the middle of the downstairs bar, with you as the star of your very own Step Up movie.

Alcohol powers the nightlife of many an industry, and gambling is no exception. It’s why we need to limit the number of nights, otherwise we’d have many more cirrhosis-riddled prematurely aged operators wandering around, shadows of their former selves. Delegates do the rounds at the official opening party as well as the exclusive company parties that strive to be even more inventive and outrageous than during the day. Thankfully contortionist acts and designer shoes replace tales of live pigs and midgets with swords.

The next day, we suffer through the hangovers together. That’s the real bonding experience.All in all, if the buzz about LAC 2012 is anything to go by, it was an extremely successful conference. Time to detox so we’re ready for Dublin!

About The Author

Hailing from Australia, Kahmen Lai worked as an executive for broadcast network The Seven Media Group. She has been the Director of Content and Social Media at online casino, Big Gains No Pains, since the company’s inception in 2011.


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