Times of Malta: Upping Malta’s game again

ARTICLE

01 May 2022

This article was first published in Times of Malta

When the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry approached us to partner with it to organise an event marking 20 years of iGaming in Malta, we jumped at the opportunity. The Malta Chamber speaks for many members who have grown directly or indirectly in parallel with this industry. ‘20 years of iGaming in Malta: Are we at a crossroad’ will be held at the Malta Chamber on May 10.

It’s been two decades since Malta opened its doors to iGaming, over which time the industry has evolved, consolidated and put down roots here. I think it’s fair to say Malta has been an important stakeholder in the industry’s evolution globally. It started back in the early 2000s with a few companies established by young and daring entrepreneurs in the wake of the .com crash, keen to operate their (at the time ‘cutting edge’) businesses in a lawful and regulated environment. It is now an industry which employs thousands here, accounts for a very significant proportion of Malta’s GDP and counts among its members almost all the largest iGaming businesses, game developers and other suppliers to the industry.

Several of these businesses are listed on major stock exchanges including large and small cap exchanges in London, Stockholm, Toronto and New York. Others are owned by some of the largest private equity groups in the world while some remain privately owned.

The iGaming industry also boosted local entrepreneurship in adjacent or complementary sectors, including in affiliation marketing, payments, due diligence and compliance, professional services, conferences and events, AI, game development, esports and others.

Malta can pat itself on the shoulder for being an early mover in Europe and, in 2004, a first mover in the EU, when it enacted its online gaming regulations. It can also pat itself on the shoulder for reacting to market needs and amending its gaming laws in 2018 as well as for its clean-up operation weeding out undesirables in the run-up to and in the aftermath of the 2018 reform.

The combination of good regulation and an attractive fiscal environment did the job. In the meantime, changes around the world in iGaming regulation, and increased external fiscal pressures, continue to shift the landscape. External changes are, to a large extent, outside of Malta’s control and pose significant challenges but, for many reasons, Malta remains well-positioned to continue being of service to the iGaming industry.

For example, Malta’s principled approach to recognising iGaming licences issued by other EU member states continues to serve it and the iGaming industry well, as does the availability locally of a large, trained workforce in this sector.

The very availability of that workforce is an often-underestimated competitive advantage for Malta. Having a large, trained workforce in Malta means that iGaming and other digital industry businesses can, and in fact are, well-run from Malta; it also follows that they must be taxed here.

Keeping and growing this workforce is a must to ensure the continued training of new generations. Part of doing so rests, in my view, on incentivising investment in digital industries which require skills transferable to iGaming and which carry out R&D in areas of technology with utility in the digital world, including in iGaming.

Malta’s regulation and licensing of key suppliers to iGaming operators is another big competitive advantage, which Malta can lean on. The domino effect of the iGaming industry on local businesses ranging from tourism, to catering, real estate and many others cannot be overstated, which is why we are keen to hear local businesses’ views.

What’s next for Malta? How should it capitalise on the experience gained? How does this country remain at the forefront of the iGaming industry in a rapidly and constantly changing world?

As strong believers in bringing this event as closely as possible to the vision, plans and concerns of conference participants, in the run-up to the event we warmly welcome questions and suggestions. E-mail us on gaming@whpartners.eu or follow The Malta Chamber social media platforms. Registration is available here.

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