A Visit to the Vault Barcelona 2008 : helpful cabbies, aggressive hookers and meeting famous people

Featured stories from the Casinomeister Archives, 25 years of tales from front lines.


Head of Complaints (PABs), Senior Forum Moderator
Staff member
Jan 20, 2004
This one is a bit different. We've been to a lot of conferences over the years and while everything has changed -- at least twice -- a lot remains kinda remains the same too. It's always been an adventure of one sort or another and it seems that's about to be proven once again.

The big European gaming conference -- ICE, the famous London event -- has recently announced that it will be moving to Barcelona in 2025. Opinion is certainly divided on that but there's no denying that Barcelona is a strange and beautiful place. It seems a perfect time for a look back at one of Casinomeister's previous conference visits to the city, and the only time he was chased by hookers (AFAIK).

Barcelona again…
The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain…or Barcelona. That’s how it was last week. Barcelona – the capital of Catalonia, the second largest city in Spain – home to Antoni Gaud�, inspirations to Dali, Tapas, red wine, and aggressive pickpockets. It’s also the home to the annual EIG and CAP Euro’s fall exhibition. I was there for my sixth EIG, and it was the second time that I was checking out what CAP had to offer.​
Getting there was quick and easy. Barely a two hour flight from Frankfurt, I cashed in some of my miles and flew business. Lufthansa’s “Miles and More” has the nasty habit of removing one’s miles if you don’t use them up. They screwed me out of 11,000 miles in July – I wasn’t going to let them do it again. So here I was in “Business” trying not to look too important to the other passengers getting on the plane. Overhearing “ooh, business,” I had to smirk. Commoners.​
I stayed at the same hotel as I did last year – the Olivia Plaza Hotel in Cataluña Square. It’s relatively nice with very friendly service. It’s also far enough away from the convention hotels to have some peace, and it’s right there within walking distance of most of the parties. And there were more than enough parties to deal with on this trip.​
And it was rainy. Luckily it held off while Grandmaster, Greedygirl and I roved around eating good Spanish food and grabbing some beers.​
Funny thing about Greedygirl; she’s always losing stuff or having rotten luck at airports. Here we were, Grandmaster and I, drinking a couple of beers in a pub off of Las Ramblas, when Greedygirl showed up – her face ashen. “I left my cell phone in the cab!” She said it as if she couldn’t believe it herself. We were a bit astonished and we felt her pain, since being here on business requires a cellphone destined to ring every couple of minutes or so. “Bloody hell!” I said, “That sucks!”. We checked out her cab receipt, and yes, there was a telephone number on it – but it had an automated message saying that their office was open 9-5 blah blah blah. (We recruited Grandmaster to translate since he speaks Spanish).​
Seemed like all hope was lost until we used my cellphone and tried calling Greedygirl’s phone hoping for an answer, and someone did. It was her cab driver and we handed the phone to the bouncer, (Grandmaster was in the loo), who explained everything and the cab driver, who agreed to come back and drop off the phone. Amazing.​
Another thing that is amazing is how aggressive the prostitutes are on Las Ramblas. Here I was walking back to my hotel – half-lit and half-assed lost – I was accosted by some African hookers grabbing onto my arm and groping at my you-know-what. It was rather alarming and it totally creeped me out. They kept repeating vulgar references in a sort of desperate mantra. It was if I was in some bad movie. I actually had to flag down a cab to drive me three blocks just to get away from this bunch.​
Morning came early, but I was prepped and ready to go. One thing I’ve always appreciated about Clarion events. They alway begin right after lunch. But I was there late morning to register and to meet up with Ben – the casino manager for Betfred – and yes, we discussed future freeroles that we’re scheduling for Casinomeister members. It should be a lot of fun.​
We had lunch (fish) and meandered back to the conference center. I was hanging out in the lobby meeting old acquaintances and a few good friends. One dear friend of mine came up to me and started chit chatting about this and that, and he mentioned that there was another American in the building that he wanted me to meet – he said we had a lot in common – we both like poker, and we were both in the service for a relatively long time. “He’s quite famous in the States – maybe you’ve heard of him: Montel Williams.” I thought I wasn’t hearing right. “You mean the Montel Williams? From the Montel Williams show?” I asked.​
“Absolutely. He was here just a minute ago. He went up to his room for a nap. Y’know, jet lag and such.” I was still stunned. My buddy continued, “Perhaps we can have some coffee, say threeish? I think he’d really like to meet you.”​
“Yeah, sure.” I was floored. “Sure, I’ll meet…Montel.” I ensured he wasn’t kidding – and he wasn’t.​
For those that know me, I’ve been working from home for years. When I lived in San Diego, I was teaching at night and doing web stuff during the day. I was a stay at home dad, taking care of my youngest daughter, and daytime TV was something I indulged in while either grading papers, feeding the kid, or developing sites like Casinomeister. Out of all the daytime talk show hosts, Montel Williams was the talk show host I respected the most. I watched his show at every chance I could get. His guests were interesting, his topics were meaningful, and he had all the attributes of an ex-Marine. And up to this day, I really didn’t know that he had served in the Marines. Since I left the States nine years ago, his show was one of the shows I have missed most.​
When the EIG kicked off, the mood was affected by the disbelief and frustration on what the State of Kentucky was up to: the attempt to confiscate 140 domains that are associated with “illegal” gambling. The timing was perfect, just like when congress passed the UIGEA, it’s during the EIG when all the I-gaming representatives are away from the office and attending a conference in Barcelona. And as it turns out, the Kentucky ruse is nothing but a protectionist move to protect its horse racing monopoly. All of you who bet on horses please raise your hands. Yep, just what I suspected – most of you couldn’t care less about those animals.​
Sue Schneider, who not only considers herself a consultant but an instigator, opened the EIG commenting that the gaming industry is comparable to the banking industry – it’s selling a risky product. And how true this is, to bad the online gaming industry wasn’t getting a $700 billion dollar bailout like its US brethren. Whether it’s going “all in” or buying up 100 shares of Microsoft, we’re risk takers by nature. And in doing so, we generally need some sort of regulatory authority that can ensure that there are proper checks and balances. We need to make sure that our banks don’t borrow more money than they can afford to pay back; we need to know that casino operations are conducted in an ethical manner.​
Bruno Giussani from “Technology Entertainment Design” gave the keynote address (Tech Trends: We Used To Call Them Users) which I found refreshing and provocative. He covered the web and its relationship with “users” (us) and how it has developed into an interactive entity. We don’t merely passively watch, we participate. He stressed how businesses need to interact with their participants, and the importance of blogging. This got me to thinking; this is exactly what has been happening at Casinomeister for years. Did you know that all fully registered members of our forum have access to creating their own personal blog? You didn’t? Well now you know. Side note: there are some really cool things coming our way in the forum. Stay tuned.​
The next segment included a panel discussion of the CEOs of the top software providers, but it was difficult for me to focus on this because I was getting anxious on meeting Montel. I felt like I was in high school waiting to get picked up for a date, and knowing that it’d probably be a no show. It was about three already, so I snuck out and called my buddy’s cell phone expecting bad news. “Yeah, sure it’s going to happen. Why don’t you come down to the hotel and I’ll give him a call. He should be up from his nap.”​
It kicked off with the venerable Sue Schneider giving us a run-down on where this industry has been and shared with us a letter from ex-CEO BetonSports David Carruthers. He is still under house arrest (over 15 months with no trial in sight), but he is upbeat concerning the allegations of “illegal gambling”. He is hanging tough and confided that although he is under house arrest, he’s in the best physical shape he’s ever been. Goes to show what good home cooked meals can do for you. He stated “I may be one year older, but I am ten years wiser.” He described the industry stuck in a “round-about” not knowing which direction to take. “At no time in the past has this industry needed strong leadership as it needs strong leadership today.” It needs a focused approach from all facets of the industry to make a positive difference. People need to come together and share resources to put this into action. He also stated that the industry needs to be focused on operating with integrity with customer service and customer protection in mind. David Carruthers is a good man. It’s a shame to see him still waiting for his day in court which may not be until this upcoming Spring.​
Funny how some things never change…​
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