Within the iGaming industry, the events companies have potentially taken the hardest hit since COVID reared its ugly head.
In general, events companies and professionals are suffering, an industry full of passionate, solution-driven people who are now extremely limited in their scope. While digital events can provide some temporary relief, they are not the same as in-person events which are either banned or greatly reduced at present, all around the world.
“I think the position is very difficult in the U.K. specifically”, shared Shona ODonnell, currently the Head of Strategic Events at Better Collective, with a deep history in event organizing within the gambling industry space.
“We’ve seen in all the rest of Europe – and actually largely the rest of the world – that governments are making decisions whereby they’re separating business events from other types of events like public gatherings and they are allowing business events to go ahead”, she pointed out.
As anyone residing in the U.K. is certainly aware, the government had set a “go-live” date for events on the 1st of October, but due to spikes in COVID infections prior to the 1st, the “go-live” date has been put on hold indefinitely.
“Our big challenge is that actually the government is doing very little in terms of giving us a ‘go-live’ date for events. There’s some talk of it not being until March, but there’s some other people saying that potentially they think we might be able to go live at the end of January”, ODonnell said.
“I think this is one of the things that is so challenging, is that things are changing all the time and the guidance isn’t always terribly clear”, she said.
“Its making it very hard for people because a lot of us are really unsure about how secure our jobs are because there’s no events, there’s not very much work we can do”, ODonnell added.
In the meantime, digital events have replaced our beloved in-person iGaming conferences around the world, but they simply don’t generate the same level of revenues for the organizer.
“I absolutely applaud the efforts of all the major events organizers both within the gambling industry and with wider sectors for turning things around and putting together some amazing digital events”, ODonnell made a point to mention.
“I think the problem is a digital event cannot replicate a physical event and what everyone is doing is they’re so desperate to do something that they’re just taking their live event and putting it online and it doesn’t work. Everyone’s desperate because if there’s no events, as an events business, there’s no revenue”, she said.
“My expectation would be that probably around March/April we would hope to see some live events happening in the U.K., but it really is a big of crystal ball gazing at the moment”, she added.
Aside from the fact that events themselves are not currently allowed, the U.K. government has not offered support to events companies as they did for hospitality, leaving events companies in an incredibly difficult position.
“People in the events industry as a whole feel quite sidelined and really marginalized. We all understand we’ve not dealt with this before and we don’t know how it works but its just been absolutely bloody shambolic”, said ODonnell.
“I think that’s the frustration, they’ve got this incredible talent in the U.K., we are absolutely at the forefront of delivering excellent events and events people around the country have been doing amazing things, they’ve been building Nightingale Hospitals, they’ve been organizing things locally, they’ve been setting up things for vulnerable people in their neighborhoods”, she pointed out.
Knowing that our beloved organizers are going through a tough time at the moment, its important to remember all the amazing opportunities they have provided us with over the years, not to mention a lifetime full of priceless stories and memories. For companies in our space who have been lucky to maintain a healthy cash flow during this time of COVID, ODonnell suggested some ways to help, for example paying invoices on time or even early, as Better Collective has been doing.
“If you can pay your suppliers, whether that’s the organizers, your stand contractors, your AV, if you are able to pay these people because your cash flow is healthy, then please pay these people because it makes the difference between someone being able to pay their staff and someone not being able to pay their staff”, she said.
“Most businesses in the gambling industry while we have been impacted, we haven’t been impacted to the same extent as pure events people and those small differences like making sure you pay on time and making payments even if the events have moved, they can make a really big difference to a small company’s cash flow”, ODonnell emphasized.
As someone who spent a decade working for iGaming Business, ODonnell knows what is going on behind the scenes and is aware a number of the suppliers to events such as promotional goods and stand builders are small companies, sometimes run by one person. Paying an invoice early could help save their business.
“There are things you can do to help those companies to make sure than when the time is right for us to come back together, those companies that you know and trust and that for years have helped you make connections and kept you safe at events all around the world, you can help to make sure that they are there on the other side, to make sure you can keep doing that”, ODonnell added.