For the first time in its history, the International Gaming Awards (IGA), traditionally a land based gaming awards ceremony, has invited the online gaming world to join in on the fun and recognition. Bringing these two worlds together for a literal “red carpet style” night, complete with CalvinAyre.com red carpet interviews and industry paparazzi, is a first for the gaming industry. The convergence of land based and online gambling is a very hot topic of discussion these days, and with Mitch Garber of Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment as one of the keynote speakers of this event, I think we’re in for a real treat.
Seeing as this will be my first International Gaming Awards, and I’m going to be covering the whole thing on camera, I decided to give Colin Thompson a call so I know what I’m in for. First off, I was very pleased to learn that the main focus of the event is to support two excellent charities, Care International and Children with LEUKAEMIA. The other goals of the event are to attract senior level execs from the land based and online gaming world so they can mix and mingle, to provide top-notch entertainment truly making for an “Oscars” style environment, and to celebrate in recognizing gaming companies for outstanding achievements in 2009. I also found out that I’ll be auctioning off a fabulous item after the dinner break, so I suggest you don’t miss this- it’ll be great fun watching me make an ass out of myself on stage.
For more information on the International Gaming Awards, please enjoy my interview with Colin Thompson below, and I hope to see you at the Millennium Gloucester hotel at 7pm on Monday, 25 January!
Interview with Colin Thompson, Co-Founder of The International Gaming Awards
RL: What is your background in the gambling world? What types of positions have you held?
CT: I have been in the Gaming Industry for over 20 years, mostly in gaming operations. Prior to joining The IGA and Clever Duck Media, I was the Gaming Director for all of the Intercontinental Hotel Casinos and oversaw the sale to mainstream gaming operators, and then I got involved in HR for Intercontinental Hotels overseas. Before that I have worked in many countries which opened up new gaming legislations.
RL: As Co-founder of the International Gaming Awards, how did you come up with this idea and make it a reality?
CT: It has been a thought for many years, but I did not have the time or indeed the resources to embark on such an adventure. When I eventually joined the Empire Casino Recruitment team, they had all the contacts and ability to make something like this work. To start such a task you need to have the backing of a brand that is respected in Gaming to ensure operators know it is real and can be trusted. However, making it a reality was another huge task- bringing together the World’s leading Operators is not easy and many said it could not be done- that only spurred us on more for the Inaugural event.
RL: How many years have you been organizing International Gaming Awards and how will this year’s ceremony be different than years previous?
CT: The upcoming January 2010 ceremony will be the third year the event has taken place. This year is different than the years previous because for the very first time, we have invited the Online Gaming Industry to the awards categories and to the ceremony itself. The response from online gaming has been wonderful and the industry is very responsive to new ideas. The reason for the mix of online and offline is that many offline operators are involved in online and certainly the ones that are not are very interested in moving into online gaming.
RL: How are the International Gaming Awards different than other awards ceremonies in the igaming world such as EGR Awards and iGB Affiliate Awards?
CT: We like to think that the IGA interests a more senior level of Management than other ceremonies that seem to make them of a party atmosphere. Indeed the IGA is a truly entertaining evening and very enjoyable but the focus is more on decision makers attending.
The International Gaming Awards has the direct support of internationally influential groups such as The Australasian Casino Association, ADIB (The Russian Gaming Operators Association), The Canadian Gaming Association and the National Indian Gaming Association. To quote the European Casino Association (ECA) – “…the ECA has high esteem for the International Gaming Awards as we believe that it is a great event for our industry that truly deserves to be supported”. IGA is very proud to announce the support of the Remote Gambling Association this year.
RL: How are the nominees chosen for the awards, who are the judges, and what is the judging process?
CT: Our nomination process in very democratic and open to anyone to nominate a company or product for an award. The nominations are received from companies themselves, by individuals via the form on the Gaming Awards website, or sometimes phone calls.
As always, a panel of 25 judges, hand-picked for their expertise, impartiality and respect within the industry, will deliberate all categories, paying particular attention to entries that highlight how they surpassed objectives in the briefs, while also providing concise testimonials and strong supporting material. None of the judges are placed in categories that they have a business connection or interest in professionally.
The IGA 2010 introduced Chairman of the Judging panel, Mr Michael Boettcher, President of Storm International BV and Founder of Responsible Gaming Fund in Russia, a regular contributor to worldwide charities. The role of the chairman is to oversee the judging process.
RL: Who are some of the big names that attend this event? What types of industry professionals does this event attract and what types of companies?
CT: The Majority of attendees are CEOs, MDs and Senior Executives from the Gaming Industries. Some of the online gaming companies attending this year include PartyGaming, PKR, Playtech, Ladbrokes, Greentube Wink Bingo, and Harrah’s Interactive. From the land based Gaming side we have attendees from Las Vegas, Macau and all across Europe.
RL: Tell me how this event is similar to the “Oscars”. Describe the literal red carpet experience that nominees and attendees can expect at this awards ceremony.
CT: The Oscars are attended by the leading people from their Industry and the same is true for the IGA. This year we have the Red Carpet Experience which will include personal interviews for nominees and guests as they walk across the red carpet in addition to a battery of Photographers. We want to give people the feel of being the stars for the night, which of course, they rightfully are.
RL: What can the guests expect throughout the night from the moment they arrive until the conclusion of the evening? What is on the agenda?
CT: The awards will be presented by Geoff Cotton, a professional multi-lingual presenter who has worked extensively on events such as ours all around the world. Two speakers will address awards attendees at the beginning of the night- we will hear from Francis Lui of Galaxy Entertainment and Mitch Garber of Harrah’s Interactive.
With a champagne reception, a gala dinner, keynote speeches, a charity auction and an awards ceremony, you would think that the night would be complete… but there will be a surprise during the evening, although no more information can be given about that now (well – it would spoil the surprise!).
RL: What would you say are the most coveted awards of the night and do you have any predictions on who might win?
CT: Every year the Best Operator awards are fiercely fought over along with the Outstanding Contribution award. More and more the Socially Responsible Operator award is becoming regarded as very special and indeed it should be. The recipients of these awards do not know who they are until it is announced, so giving out these awards is always a highlight of the evening as certainly a lot of hard work is put in to ensure a huge surprise.
As for predictions, I never get them right, but I can say the nominees that have supplied evidence correctly and have spent time on presenting their companies properly are always well respected by our judges.
RL: What charities are involved with this event? What is the history with these charities and why did you decide to partner with them?
CT: Our two supported charities are Children with Leukaemia and Care International. We have now worked with both for over two years, and to date, in the short time we have worked together, we have raised over £20,000 for them. We want to greatly increase this number as both charities do so much good work for so many people who are unable to look after themselves. Both charities touched the hearts of all the IGA Team with their efforts and at least once a year we want to showcase their enduring tireless work for people less fortunate than ourselves.
RL: What are some of the biggest challenges you face when organizing this event?
CT: In short, everything! The amount of organization is immense and when all of the prep work is done in-house, such as uploading evidence from nominees for judges to view, design, presentation, organization of attendees and all the work involved with the Hotel, it really does create a lot of sleepless nights. Of course, the closer we get to the event, the more excited the whole team becomes. I guess this is a good thing because if you did not have that buzz and nervous excitement, what is life all about?
RL: Rumor has it that the land based gambling companies and the online gambling companies do not get along. Have you had any issues bringing the two worlds together for this event so far?
CT: There were some comments that the two industries just do not see the relevance of joining together for an event ceremony, but those comments have come from people who are not aware of the shift in business. Many offline operators have interests in online and many of the Worlds largest land based operators are looking seriously at entering the online sector. Such an example is Harrah’s Interactive, and I think many more will follow.