EAG Expo 2024 - the industry’s stage for innovation
The following interview with EAG Chairman Martin Burlin and Show Director, Nicola Lazenby appeared in the October edition of Intergame
Martin Burlin, EAG Chairman
How relevant is EAG to the UK industry?
EAG is at the absolute centre of the UK industry.
As the most important domestic event on the industry calendar, it provides a meeting place for operators from all sectors of the business, a platform for manufacturers and distributors to showcase their very latest products and a shop window for bacta to engage with policy makers, MPs, sister trade bodies and of course the bacta membership.
Our theme for EAG 2024 is ‘The Year Starts Here’ a message which underlines the quintessential importance of EAG to the businesses of thousands of consumer-facing operators including those from the AGC, FEC, Bowling Centre, Bingo, Pub and Club sectors who look to the show to source the products and inspiration to drive their businesses forward.
The EAG experience also includes a business-centric free to attend seminar programme. All of the seminars are constructed to help operators improve and enhance their enterprises. Leisure and hospitality is an ultra-competitive sector and for those businesses that are seeking every advantage or marginal gain that’s available EAG is the one place to find them.
The show is owned by bacta – what are the benefits of having a trade association at the helm and how does it work on a practical level?
It’s a huge advantage, particularly when EAG serves a sector of the economy that’s so highly regulated and which following the publication of the UK Government’s White Paper on gambling reform is poised to undergo the most comprehensive policy changes for a generation.
EAG has direct and immediate access to a body of people who know the industry inside out. I am a former National President of bacta, EAG Director Nicola Lazenby shares an office with bacta CEO John White and the EAG board comprises senior executives working in the industry.
What it means is that EAG will always be ahead of the curve in terms of content and thinking, it means that EAG will never make a misstep in relation to the industry direction of travel and it means that every strategic and tactical decision we make will always be in the best interests of the industry sectors that EAG serves. The cost of buying in the expertise that we have on tap would be immense. Political engagement is essential in our highly regulated sector. For bacta to be able to use EAG to physically demonstrate the size, significance and scale of our industry to MPs, to civil servants, to our regulator as well as to a myriad of external stakeholders is hugely advantageous.
What is the EAG proposition – is it low stake gaming or is it amusements?
The appeal of EAG is that it is the only exhibition in the world which brings together low-stake land-based gaming and amusements.
There are events which have amusements exhibitors and others that are gaming shows – but there aren’t any which combine the two with the notable exception of EAG.
The show serves the entire land-based industry which means that operators attend EAG knowing that they can secure their product needs and requirements at a single event. It also means that they can take the temperature of the industry, meet with colleagues and learn about the latest trends at the one event. As the creative for EAG ’24 states ‘The Year Starts Here’ and that’s true for all of the sectors that we serve both in the UK and in Europe.
Nicola Lazenby, EAG Show Director
The 2023 show registered a 36 percent increase in attendance – what do you put that down to and what are you hoping for in 2024?
I think there’s a variety of reasons behind the uplift in attendance.
First and foremost, it’s the quality of the exhibitor line-up which motivates attendance and we worked extremely hard to secure what I believe constituted the ‘best of the best’ in terms of the creators and distributors across both the amusements and the low stake gaming sectors.
Once you’ve got the foundation stones in place and captured the attention of the industry, as an organiser you start building additional reasons to attend such as networking opportunities, creating a compelling and relevant seminar programme and building theatre with events on the show floor.
The show messaging has to connect with the industry and the comms needs to be imaginative and full of energy. Once you are able to create some momentum and a sense of expectation it’s possible to start growing the show attendance – which is what we did.
2023 was very much about executing the simple things really well and providing a platform for further development and growth which is what we are planning for in ’24.
Is it the people that make EAG special or is it the opportunity to see the latest products?
This is a bit of a predictable answer but EAG is special because of the people that attend and the product that they travel to ExCeL to see: you cannot have one without the other – it’s a mutually supportive relationship.
EAG has a remarkable history which dates back to 1936. We have personalities such as UDC co-founder Derek Horwood who remembers attending the first edition of ATE – the show which preceded EAG – at the Royal Horticultural Hall in 1936 and he still attends as a key exhibitor.
When you can draw on that type of intergenerational support it shows how important the people are in terms of having a sense of ownership and solidarity.
There’s no doubt that exhibitors, the vast majority of whom have supported EAG and before that ATEI for decades, use the show to launch their latest products, services and innovations. EAG 2024 dovetails neatly with the likely timetable for implementation of the proposals included in the UK Government’s White Paper, which augurs well for manufacturers wanting to launch their latest gaming products and for operators who want to hit the ground running with the first post White Paper innovations.
One of the slogans you’ve used is about EAG ‘recognising the past and preparing for the future’ – can you explain that in more detail?
Whilst EAG has an unbelievable history spanning some nine decades we must also ensure that it provides a platform for the future development of the pay-to-play amusements and low stake gaming sectors. The equipment that operators will see at ExCeL, London in January 2024 will represent the latest thinking and interpretations of electronic leisure to be found anywhere. As the guardians of EAG we are respectful of its past but equally, the show embraces the future.