Faces of Gaming: Kate Chambers – ICE queen, casino exhibition maven and keeper of fairy dust

April 6, 2024 10:56 AM
  • Tom Osiecki — CDC Gaming Reports and Raving Partner
April 6, 2024 10:56 AM
  • Tom Osiecki — CDC Gaming Reports and Raving Partner

Kate Chambers is known for leading the team that turned around ICE, the annual casino exhibition in Europe, and made it an international trade show sensation. She is also credited with the success of several other international casino conferences.

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Kate is a London-based media professional whose passion for transformational management can be seen in more than 30 years working overseas on large international portfolios.

A pioneer in the event experience space for large event organizers, Kate started her career in sales across print, digital, and events. She held senior positions in divisional management for companies like United Business Media and Clarion Gaming across global portfolios.

As a founder at Fulwood Media, Kate is widely known for sharing what she’s learned in her 30 years of experience working across all forms of media, from how you build an integrated portfolio targeting industry verticals to building a community. She developed the Gaming Boardroom, an online service where senior executives can adapt, learn, and thrive across niche verticals in the gaming industry.

The unexplainable and fairy dust

When you ask Kate to describe a successful casino exhibition, she holds up her hands in a cupped gesture of anticipation and explains it as an inexpressible feeling.

“With an exhibition, it’s that feeling that you get when someone has told you about an amazing restaurant and you’ve booked a table, and you take your wife and you’re so excited to be there because you’ve been told the food’s amazing. The wines are unbelievable. And you go and it’s that sense as you step through the door. It’s that feeling.

“At some point in your life, you must have been somewhere or done something where you get that feeling of expectation. I’ve got goose bumps now I’m talking about it. It’s very hard to describe,” Kate stated.

Kate was so successful with international trade shows, people in the office started to describe her secret to success as “fairy dust”.

“Everybody at Clarion Gaming said, ‘It’s the Kate fairy dust.’ They would send people to my office to say, ‘Go and talk to Kate about her fairy dust.’ Because no one could explain what I was doing, even myself sometimes,” she said.

At that point, Kate pulled up a clear canister of colored glitter and showed it to me.

“Somebody gave me a little pot of glitter. They said is this your fairy dust. They literally thought I had a pot on my desk, and I would get a show, and could sprinkle this dust over the trade show, and it would suddenly be like ICE. And I’m sorry, it is quite a complex process that takes time, but this is the bit about shows that I love,” Kate smiled.

A career started with horses

Growing up in rural North Devon, United Kingdom, where the nearest town was three miles away, Kate was a 5-foot 11-inch young lady who was “Gangly, tall and skinny; so, I just felt awkward, and I could never hide,” she said.

Her parents were both teachers; her mother taught art and design and her father taught technical drawing. She was raised next to a horse-riding academy that was “two fields away,” Kate recalled.

Kate and her sister lived an ‘idyllic life’ working at the riding academy in exchange for riding lessons. Kate decided to make a career of horses.

“I found a big agricultural college that offered equine courses and got a degree in equine business management,” she recounted.

Her equine career was cut short when she experienced a riding accident. “All I remember is the horse tripping over, putting my hands out in front of me and then I did not remember anything for two days. I went feet over head and it damaged my lower spine. To this day I still cannot walk, stand, or sit long,” Kate said.

From horses to advertising to trade shows

Kate was no longer able to do the manual labor associated with the equine business, but with the help of her uncle, a director and board member of the Daily Express, she found herself selling classified advertising for the Daily Express. After two years, Kate found a similar job selling advertising for an equine magazine. “Bizarrely, I was the only one who knew anything about horses in the horse magazine,” she said.

Kate then began selling exhibit space for Macmillan Publishing. In 2001, she started working for United Business Media as a Group Director, where she oversaw twenty-one distinct projects and gained an understanding of different markets including pharma, interiors, leisure, licensed trade, medical, and incentives.

It was at United Business Media where Kate led a team of 70 people and had full P&L responsibility, from new launches to mature projects. She oversaw events and projects in London, Amsterdam, and Princeton, NJ.

Clarion Gaming

“When I joined Clarion in 2010, I went straight in and managed ICE. It was the only trade show that I managed, and I went in as a show director. At that time, ICE was struggling. People were not happy with it. They didn’t really know who owned the trade show. And the team of five people that were running it sat in the office all day and never went to see the customers,” Kate recalled.

Kate spent nearly 11 years as Managing Director at Clarion Gaming

“My role was leading 22 gaming brands that spanned six vital international markets – from exhibitions and conferences to training, digital, and publishing. My team was a major player in successfully bringing a multifaceted approach to diverse operations, including the acclaimed ICE, and a host of innovative brands breaking ground in emerging markets, such as Africa, North America, Latin America, Brazil, and Japan.

“Our flagship, ICE, was a congregation of global gaming leaders. In 2020, we hit new records marking a 49% surge in attendance and an 82% jump in floor space since 2012, continuing our growth trajectory for the 9th consecutive year. ICE was a symbol of our extensive reach, with 40 international gaming media and 25 trade associations actively engaged with an attendance that reached 40,000 people at the time,” Kate said.

According to CDC Gaming Reports, “ICE at ExCeL, London is the biggest b2b gambling industry event in the world and features games creators, distributors, operators, retailers, innovators, trade associations, strategic bodies, and regulators – representing every gaming vertical.”

Kate stated that ICE began in 1937 as a small trade show with a trade association called the British Amusement & Catering Trades Association, which featured carnival-style games.

“About 25 years ago, they separated casinos out and renamed that part of the show the International Casino Exhibition. That’s where ICE comes from. It moved around London in lots of different venues as it had grown, and it ended up in Earl’s Court, and then ExceL,” said Kate.

ICE expansion

“Running trade shows is all about the brands for me. I have been working in events for 30 years. I’ve managed big brands all over the world. I’ve done lots of brand work with big trade shows. ICE was an ideal opportunity for me to try all the things that I wanted to try, and Clarion Gaming allowed me to do that. That’s why I loved Clarion, and it’s why I’m thankful for Clarion for giving me the opportunity to try a whole load of new things. The end result is it worked. Because if you look at ICE now, there’s something very special about ICE, which is exactly what I wanted to try and achieve,” Kate said.

“One of the things that was wrong with ICE when I joined was that nobody knew the team that ran it. So, what we did was to travel to see as many exhibitors as possible. We started an annual trip to Las Vegas to see the key manufacturers there. We went all over Europe. We did a lot of traveling. We wanted to make sure that they knew who we were and that we knew who they were,” Kate recounted.

Giving ICE a voice

“My thought process was to try and give ICE a tone of voice because the show was flat. It didn’t have a personality. ICE at the time literally could have taken place in a car park (parking lot),” Kate mused.

“One of the biggest things we gave it was personality. We gave it a tone of voice so every time anybody wrote anything about ICE, from a press release to any copy we were writing to promote the show, it was written in a very distinct tone of voice.

“We were incredibly careful about the creative campaigns. We tried to tap into the things that people can identify with, whether it was a piece of memorabilia, a song, a famous actor or actress, a movie, or a musician.

“We ran one campaign around famous quotes of famous people; and we made sure that we took a famous person from every country that was represented in the show. So, the people in Argentina could immediately identify with a quote that we were pushing in Argentina, or a quote for the show that the Americans could identify with. You know, a quote from someone that they understood, rather than just quoting Churchill or some random celebrity. We were very specific about the plan we put in place over three years that allowed ICE to develop into a personality that people liked, could identify with, and feel emotional about,” Kate explained.

International trade shows

“At Clarion Gaming, ICE was the biggest product – but then we launched ICE Africa, ICE North America, the Brazilian Gaming Congress, Japan Gaming Congress. We acquired the iGB group of events and magazines. We had iGB Live in Amsterdam, an iGB affiliate in Berlin.

“We had the iGB North American magazine and iGB igaming business magazine. We launched TotallyGaming.com, which was a digital platform.

“What I was trying to do was to de-risk the portfolio because we had all this investment in one big trade show. If something went wrong with it, well, bloody hell, what happens if the whole thing collapses? It is like having a big castle and putting defensive walls around it and putting up towers to defend the central castle.

“That’s what all these other events were about. It’s about forging relationships, encouraging people to fall in love with an ICE Africa in Africa. Which meant that they would then realize there was an ICE in London, and they would go,” Kate stated.

Fulwood Media

After the pandemic closed large gatherings, Kate left Clarion to form her own company, Fulwood Media, in 2020.

“I had no idea what I was going to do. Clarion did not want to just cut ties. They said, ‘We want you to keep working with us. Will you do some consultancy?’ Because of the stuff that I’ve done on the brand, they knew they needed some continuity.

“Globally in gaming people knew who I was. I mean, most people have heard my name. They don’t know me, but they’ve heard my name. So, I said yeah, of course. I started a business, and my first client was Clarion Gaming,” Kate recalled.

150 phone calls   

Not one to give up, Kate dug in and called the people she knew in the industry to try and assess their needs.

“Then I rang 150 people up all over the world that were in my little black book and said, ‘If I could do one thing for you that would help you right now, what would that be?’ I kept asking the same question. And 150 people that were running casinos as CEOs of the operator groups, CEOs of the suppliers in Vegas  or wherever they were based obviously came out with a big, long list of stuff, because everyone was different. But four key themes came out of it,” Kate remarked.

Gaming boardroom

As a result of her investigations into the needs of gaming professionals, Kate and Fulwood Media created The Gaming Boardroom, a one-stop insight website that seeks to fulfill the needs of the four themes she discovered through her phone calls.

“As the founder of The Gaming Boardroom, I created a comprehensive digital platform and exclusive meeting calendar designed to help professionals in the gaming sector perform better and enhance their knowledge across some key business critical issues. My goal is to support their personal and professional development, as well as the growth of their businesses,” said Kate.

Four key themes

In our conversation, I explored with Kate the core insights she’s garnered through her interactions and how these shape the offerings of The Gaming Boardroom. Here’s what stood out:

Firstly, the overwhelming influx of information was a common concern. “The challenge isn’t just the volume—it’s differentiation. With thousands of newsletters crowding inboxes weekly, distinguishing valuable content becomes a Herculean task,” Kate explained. The Gaming Boardroom’s solution? Curate. By selecting the top 20 stories each day from a sea of sameness—ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the Las Vegas Review Journal—subscribers receive distilled, impactful insights without the clutter.

Business development emerged as the second theme. Kate and her team provide access to a wealth of business insights addressing six critical issues. Whether through videos, reports, or white papers, the aim is to equip subscribers with the knowledge to navigate current challenges effectively, all complemented by bespoke meeting opportunities designed to foster in-depth discussions.

The third theme revolves around providing deeper insights into bespoke content. “It’s about offering more than just information; it’s about insight,” Kate said. This could take the form of interviews with industry leaders, bite-sized expert analyses, or comprehensive explorations of solutions that have proven effective for others. It’s a deeper dive into the realm of business intelligence, tailored to offer actionable insights.

Lastly, the community aspect plays a pivotal role. The Gaming Boardroom hosts a unique platform that bridges the gap between WhatsApp and LinkedIn, enabling subscribers to form groups, engage in discussions, exchange documents, and foster their own micro-communities.

The Gaming Boardroom now offers real-time business intelligence, offering curated insights, a personalized dashboard across six critical categories, a community of industry peers, and tools designed to enhance efficiency.

To access the Gaming Boardroom, message Kate at hello@fulwoodmedia.com.

ICE success secrets

I asked Kate what she thought was the secret to the success she had with ICE.

“It was finding an industry that was ready for me. The industry got it. It was like the light bulb going on. The time was right. The show was right. Everything about it was right.

The industry suddenly realized that what I did with ICE was a very business-to-consumer engagement strategy. All those operators out there are selling or advertising their casinos to players who are the consumers. They got what I was doing because I was following the same rules of advertising,” Kate said.

From horses to international ICE queen

Kate started out in life wanting to master the equine business and ended up running the world’s largest international gaming exhibition – an amazing leap that shows you can make anything happen with a little horse sense, a lot of drive, and just a touch of fairy dust.

Entries in the Faces of Gaming series:

Tom Osiecki is a casino consultant who writes an occasional column for CDC Gaming Reports called Faces of Gaming, about interesting and engaging people in the gaming industry.

Tom Osiecki is a marketing and management consultant for Raving Consulting and can be reached for consulting engagements at 775-329-7864.

If you know of a fascinating personality in the gaming industry you would like to see profiled, please send Tom Osiecki an email at tosiecki@cdcgaming.com