The ICE Totally Gaming show, reportedly the largest gambling industry conference in the world, wrapped up yesterday amid a heated debate about the use of “booth girls” and the sexism they represent. Sarah Harrison, outgoing CEO of the U.K.’s Gambling Commission, used the last days of her tenure to criticize the common practice of using scantily clad women at exhibit booths as a marketing tool.
“This is an industry where we have a number of talented, powerful and successful women,” Harrison said at a speech preceding the show. “Yet, from walking around the exhibition, you wouldn’t know this. Instead you saw men representing their companies wearing expensive tailored suits whilst their female colleagues were expected to wear nothing more than swimsuits. I say, bring this to an end now.”
Harrison went further, saying the Gambling Commission would boycott any future events if there wasn’t a change. In response, the European Casino Assoc., and Clarion Gaming, organizers of the show, are requesting exhibitors to be aware of potentially harmful allegations of sexism “in the spirit of the 21st century.” Some exhibitors during the show, which ran Feb. 6-8, defied those requests. Pole dancers, Playboy models and swimsuit-clad women still walked the aisles and danced at booths. A video above from The Guardian shows evidence that the practice was still plentiful on the show floor.
ECA and Clarion has not yet commented on whether they will take action against exhibitors who defied the request, but did highlight that for several years now, the show has featured seminars on diversity and inclusion that are organized in partnership with Global Gaming Women.
The debate follows similar discussions underway in other industries known for using sex to sell. Formula 1 recently announced it would drop its iconic “grid girls” in its next season, replacing them with “grid kids,” giving aspiring drivers a chance to see the pros up close. The Professional Darts Corp. also dropped the idea of “walk-on girls,” who traditionally escort players to the competition stage, earlier this year after pressure from broadcasters and fans.