John White: ‘The breadth and mix of product at EAG is one of its major strengths and something that we plan to grow and grow’

Bacta chief executive John White (centre) with former National Presidents Gabi Stergides (left), Jason Frost (second right), John Martin owner of Paignton Pier (far right) together with the association’s former Head of SR and Compliance, Phil Silver

How important is it that EAG is owned and run by bacta – how does it impact the event?

I think it’s a crucial characteristic of the show and one which everyone in the industry appreciates. Why is it so important – well it brings sustainability in that EAG is run for the long-term; it also brings financial support to bacta enabling the Show to fund our political engagement activities that ultimately benefits members’ businesses, and it brings responsiveness and agility to its design by ensuring bacta members get to feed in to what we do in a way a commercial event organiser could not as the business model wouldn’t allow.  Bacta made a very significant contribution to members’ stand costs last year in order to help them as they began trading out of the pandemic. It’s an extended family of common interests which enables long-term planning and an agile response to meet both challenges and opportunities.

On a practical level what are the benefits to bacta member exhibitors? 

Very simply put bacta members get a hefty discount on what is already a very competitive pricing model.  Also, as I said earlier the opportunity to influence and shape the Show in a way to support businesses is both unique and invaluable.

How important is EAG in furthering bacta’s broader engagement programme?

Apart from the financial contribution it makes to bacta, EAG is our annual opportunity to showcase the very best of the industry.  The presentation, the innovation, the customer engagement are all at the pinnacle of what is best about our industry.  As such it is the perfect platform for us to show regulators, parliamentarians and other external stakeholders what our industry is really all about.  There’s an open invitation to all stakeholders who wish to pass comment on our industry to come and see it, experience it and talk with the industry rather than rely on lazy and outmoded stereotypes.

Would you say that EAG is a shop window for the culture of innovation that underpins the UK industry?

Absolutely.  Anyone who is not at EAG 2023 will miss the best amusement games for the coming season, the best new B3s and the best new Cat Cs.  The other commodity that is abundant at EAG is thinking.  From the seminars to the conversations in the bars, new ideas percolate throughout ExCeL at every edition of EAG.  Alongside the traditional coin-op offer is the broader amusements offer that allows venues to explore how to add value and generate income in ways they may not have previously considered.

Paolo Sidoli of SB Machines highlighted the importance of having low stake gaming equipment within what is a amusements show – do you agree with the analysis and in what way(s) is it important?

I think it’s a great point. Certainly, the breadth and mix of products at EAG is one of its major strengths and something that we plan to grow and grow overseen by new EAG Director Nicola Lazenby who has enjoyed a formidable career in the events industry including a spell working on ATEI . The operator of every kind of amusement, entertainment or attraction venue will find something that adds value to their business, whether it’s an FEC, bowling alley, theme park, softplay centre, or an arcade.  There is no operator to whom I would say don’t come to the show.  It’s hugely relevant to everyone.

Will bacta be using EAG to unveil its own products and services?

Absolutely. We will have new products on our bactaPortal for members to view and use.  We are also the first port of call for our members with any queries about the sector from politics to compliance.  The bacta lounge is a key benefit to bacta members visiting the Show and it’s always busy.  We will have the full team available for the three days of the show to meet with members and answer their questions and help in any way that we can. It’s a great opportunity to meet with members.

Clearly the industry is facing challenges in terms of uncertainty caused by the delay in the white paper, increasing pressure on disposable leisure spend and the escalating costs of running businesses – will bacta be addressing any of these issues at show: for example, will you be holding bacta clinics at show?

We are currently pulling together the seminar and workshop plans.  The principal philosophy of our thinking is to ensure whatever we do is directly relevant to those coming to the Show and that they are able to take something useful away with them. To that end we will be examining how to address the current challenges we are facing, particularly around the cost of doing business.

As someone who has attended a large number of shows both under the ATEI and the EAG brands, how would you describe the in-person experience, what are the benefits of participation and what would you say to bacta and non-bacta members contemplating a January trip to ExCeL London?

I absolutely love those three days of January.  I always have done and it underlines how important in-person or live events are to the business. EAG is the only place where the industry gets together in such numbers and I can really take in the breadth of what we do and appreciate the wealth of talent we have in doing it. From the high-tech to the showmanship, there is an abundance of riches that flows through EAG. Coupled with the extraordinary social side of the event I would simply say, it is an event genuinely not to be missed.

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