February 10, 2018 by

Gaming Industry Conference Wracked by Allegations of Sexism

Amidst attention and controversy in many parts of the world about what may be rampant sexual harassment on the part of men and directed toward women, the International Casino Exhibition Totally Gaming 2018 (ICE 2018) has come under strong criticism for what many see as overt sexism.


The convention ran from February 6-8 in London.  Before it began the convention planners were asked specifically by the UK Gambling Commission to fight overt sexism by not having female presenters dress in skimpy costumes while male presenters were to dress in suits and to eschew clearly sexual entertainment such as pole dancing.  Convention organizers refused to abide by the requests.

A Shot Across the Bow

The Commission’s executive director, Sarah Harrison, went as far as to threaten to boycott the event.  She complained about the skimpy costumes females were expected to wear.  The defiance of the Gambling Commission’s request was immediately brought to the fore as Microgaming, the best-known online casino games provider, put on a dance performance in the style of Playboy Magazine because they were introducing a new game based on the iconic sex and nudity magazine.

Rampant Exploitation of Sex

Pole dancing was the featured form of entertainment at the Endorphina stage.  The women wore the smallest amount of clothing even they or their employers thought they could get away with, even in the face of a formal request not to dance in sexually provocative manner while wearing sexually provocative clothing.  As if pole dancing in itself and near nudity in itself were not provocative enough, the screen behind the pole dancing women flashed the word “provocative”.

The audience that stopped to watch was overwhelmingly male as was completely expected.  The men filmed the performance and took selfies with the dancers.

Other women reported that they had been offered money for sex.  Women reported being groped when they stood for pictures with convention attendees.

Costumes were not always skimpy two piece outfits.  Observers reported seeing women in thongs, or, at the other extreme, collars and other paraphernalia of bondage.

Why Allow a Huge Convention to be Waylaid by Thongs?

ICE Total Gaming attracts over 30,000 to its conventions.  It is a business to business convention that covers all aspects of gaming.  The people who present their goods, services, or solutions do so in full seriousness.  ICE Total Gaming is a place where people meet to develop or extend networking contacts.  Any deals made at the convention immediately create a market for the product, service, or solution in question.

It is also ironic that the organizers went to great lengths to state that no one under 18 years of age would be allowed onto the convention floor.  Nevertheless, they allowed and encouraged the unnecessary sexualization of the event.

Some women spoke about unwanted sexual advances but were unwilling to be specific because their contracts specifically disallowed explicit disclosure of sexual inappropriateness.

Organizers Sent a Request to Desist

The event organizers are Clarion Gaming and the European Casino Association.  They wrote an impassioned letter to presenters urging them to do away with the sexual content entirely “in the spirit of the 21st century.”  Many people who attended this year’s convention say that it was actually quite toned down from the kind of rampant sexualism of past conventions.

Politicians Have their Say

Two members of the British Labour Party, Carolyn Harris and Tom Watson, expressed pointed criticism at industry leaders who they said needed to “demonstrate moral leadership” in combatting the hyper-sexuality that permeates ICE conventions.

Some Disagree

Defenders of having scantily-clad hostesses say that it has always been the case and always will be the case that men are attracted to women wearing little clothing.  It sells product in television adverts, in magazines, on billboards, and in many other venues.  The Winter Olympics will feature male ice skaters in long pants and female ice skaters in skimpy uniforms.

The summer Olympics features women gymnasts in extremely skimpy clothing.  Professional tennis features women in high skirts.  There is an American style football league called the lingerie league in which women compete wearing….lingerie.

Given the immensely sexual nature of modern societies, it is, in this view, hypocritical to single out the ICE conventions for special recognition of a negative sort just because some presenters push the sexual envelope a bit.  It is also true that most women portrayed on casino games are beautiful and voluptuous, often wearing little clothing and what clothing they do wear is tight.  The women at online live casinos are dressed in a subdued but still very sexy manner.

Female singers have taken twerking to a place it had never gone before.

So, the argument goes: Sex is everywhere.  Why single out ICE?

An Important Convention

The sexism controversy drowned out developments in the gaming industry that may have massive impacts in the near future.  One is the growth of sports betting.  The United States Supreme Court may decide that it is a violation of the national constitution to disallow sports betting in the 46 states where it is currently illegal due to a previous court decision.

The minutiae of the case before the court are beyond the scope of this news article but, if the Supreme Court does rule that sports betting must be allowed in all of the United States or in none of them, sports betting will boom there.

One Company: Several Awards

In another surprising development, Scientific Games Corporation, a company based in the US, won several awards at ICE 2018 and yet the next day everyone was talking about pole dancers, thongs, and the future ramifications of the presenters defiance in the face of 21st century sensibilities.