The Year Starts Here! Martin Burlin on EAG Expo

Martin Burlin, Chairman of EAG Expo provides behind the scenes insight on what makes January’s annual industry gathering such a vital business and social event for thousands of operators – in the process setting the agenda for the year ahead.

EAG has just announced a partnership with the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain – can you explain how this will work and what your hopes are for the relationship moving forward?

Martin Burlin: I’m extremely pleased to have struck the agreement which will see The Showmen’s Guild promote what is the UK’s leading amusements and low-stake gaming exhibition to its members via an array of communications channels including web, newsletters, social media and the Guild’s free to download App.

It’s a reciprocal agreement and includes promotion of the Guild on the EAG website with links back to and inclusion in the exhibition’s extensive pre-show international PR and marketing activities.

EAG and the Guild have a proud shared history and Guild members have made important contributions to the success of EAG and before that ATEI. Most member businesses of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain are SMEs and I look forward to working with our colleagues at the Guild to help ensure that EAG meets the needs of that community.

I believe that by working with trade bodies such as The Showmen’s Guild that we can continue to build on EAG’s status as the cross-sector meeting place for everyone involved in out of home pay-to-play leisure, amusements and low-stake gaming.

What are the key features of EAG?

Martin Burlin:  EAG is at the absolute centre of the broadly-based UK amusements, leisure and attractions sectors. As the most important domestic event on the industry calendar, it provides a platform for manufacturers and distributors to showcase their very latest products and a shop window for the industry to engage with policy makers and MPs.

The EAG experience also includes a business-centric free to attend seminar programme. All of the seminars are constructed to help operators improve and enhance their enterprises at the same time as always remaining compliant. Leisure and hospitality is an ultra-competitive sector and for those businesses that are seeking every possible advantage or marginal gain EAG is the one place they can find them.

Martin Burlin, Chairman of EAG Expo.
Martin Burlin, Chairman of EAG Expo.

The theme for EAG, EXPO 2024 is ‘The Year Starts Here’ – can you explain how you came-up with this and its significance?

Martin Burlin:  EAG sets the tone for the year ahead attracting thousands of buyers drawn from all sectors of the industry including visitor attractions, piers, bingo clubs, family entertainment centres, adult gaming centres, bars, clubs and bowling centres – amongst many others. Speaking with both EAG exhibitors and EAG visitors in the lead-up to, during and after the 2023 show it became clear that both groups see EAG as being central to the year ahead.

The conversations which take place in January at ExCeL, London to a large extent will sign-post the industry’s direction of travel for the remainder of 2024. There are more than 100 brands and companies represented on stands at EAG and all of them timetable their R&D programmes so that products can be unveiled at show.

‘The Year Starts Here’ is a message which underlines the importance of EAG to the businesses of thousands of consumer-facing operators who look to the show to source the products and soak-up the inspiration to drive their businesses forward. For literally thousands of businesses the year will start when the doors open on EAG 2024.

You’ve moved to extend the show’s opening hours – what was the motivation for this?

Martin Burlin:  We were asked at a recent exhibitor meeting to explore options to add hours to EAG without impacting the cost-base and opening the show earlier was the most straightforward solution. As a result, EAG ’24 will run from 9am – 6pm (16th and 17th January) and 9am – 4pm (18th January). The additional hours extend the trading window by 14 percent.

Alongside negotiating with ExCeL to move the show back by a week following requests from exhibitors and visitors this is a good example of how EAG is in tune with the needs of the industry and demonstrates how we always strive to meet the needs of customers.

EAG is owned by bacta – what are the advantages of being owned by a trade association?

Martin Burlin:  There are many advantages, particularly when EAG serves a sector of the economy that’s so highly regulated and which following the publication of the UK Government’s White Paper on gambling reform is poised to undergo the most comprehensive policy changes for a generation.

EAG has direct and immediate access to a body of people who know the industry inside out. I am a former National President of bacta, EAG Show Director Nicola Lazenby shares an office with bacta CEO John White and the EAG board comprises senior executives working in the industry.

What it means is that EAG will always be ahead of the curve in terms of content and thinking, it means that EAG will never make a misstep in relation to the industry direction of travel and it means that every strategic and tactical decision we make will always be in the best interests of the industry sectors that EAG serves. The cost of buying in the expertise that we have on tap would be immense.

Can you tell our readers more about the Awards taking place at EAG?

Martin Burlin:  Whilst the prime reasons for attending EAG are to see the latest product launches from the ‘best of the best’ and to meet with industry colleagues, a trip to ExCeL, London will also provide an opportunity to celebrate all that’s great about the industry courtesy of the Bacta Annual Awards.

The initiative is made up of five categories comprising the High Street Hero, Seaside Saviour, Supply Chain Champion, the Green Giant and The Jimmy Thomas Rising Star Award which was launched in honour and memory of the late Jimmy Thomas, a proud Showman and a doyen of the industry.

As well as having a history that dates back to 1936, EAG is also very much about the future and I’m delighted that we will be able to honour the industry’s future leaders’ courtesy of the Jimmy Thomas Rising Star Award and the Green Giant for companies that have introduced environmentally-friendly practices.

EAG is an opportunity for all sectors of our industry to come together, to network, to socialise, to see the ‘best of the best’ in terms of both product and people and start the business year in the best possible way.

Finally – how would you sell the show to readers planning a trip to London in January?

Martin Burlin:  EAG is all about starting the business year with a bang and the 4,000+ operators expected to attend the 2024 edition will have the opportunity to access the very latest product launches and innovations from over 100 leading brands, share insights and experiences with industry colleagues, keep up with developments impacting social responsibility courtesy of EAG’s Safer Gambling Hub, celebrate industry excellence at the Bacta Annual Awards and participate in EAG’s topical seminar programme packed with business relevant content.

It’s clear that there’s nothing to lose and so much for operators to gain from participating in EAG Expo, 2024.

For more information and to register:

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