Isola signals confidence as gaming giants mull post-Brexit options
by Peter Schirmer
Although 888, one of Gibraltar's biggest on-line gaming companies, is considering a possibility that post-Brexit it might have to move its headquarters from the Rock to Malta, this was “not a negative”, Commerce and Gaming Minister Albert Isola told the 7th KPMG gaming summit yesterday.
“Everyone will be making possible choices on a move post Brexit,” he said.
At the same time, Mr Isola pledged the Gibraltar Government's “unequivocal support” for the local on-line industry - which now employs more than 3,350 - and pointed to the fact that, despite last June’s unexpected announcement of Brexit, since then two more firms had applied for and been granted gaming licenses, and three more were “in the pipeline”.
Mr Isola’s remarks were prompted by the release this week of 888Holdings’ annual report for last year.
In a section dealing with the various future risks that faced Europe’s gaming industry firms - most of whose business is drawn from the UK and 31 of which are regulated and licensed in Gibraltar - 888 indicated that while it would retain a presence in Gibraltar, it might move its regulated headquarters and license away from the Rock.
“The proposed status of Gibraltar in relation to the United Kingdom as a result of ‘Brexit’ is at present unclear,” the report said.
“If 888 were to remain registered, licenced and operating in Gibraltar in these circumstances, its ability to rely on EU freedom of services/establishment principles in supplying its services within the EU will be limited.”
Regulatory licenses issued in one jurisdiction might become ineligible in certain EU jurisdictions.
“Brexit could adversely affect economic or market conditions in the United Kingdom, Europe or globally and could contribute to instability in global financial markets, in particular until there is more certainty as to the form that Brexit will take and its effect on Gibraltar, the United Kingdom and the EU,” the report continued.
The ability to rely on EU principles underpinned 888’s regulatory strategy regarding major EU markets, the company said, adding that it would be unable to control or mitigate political changes of this nature.
“However it would reconsider the appropriateness of remaining registered, licenced and operational in Gibraltar in these circumstances,” 888 added in the report.
“Malta may be considered as an alternative ‘dot com’ licensing jurisdiction.”
Though several firms are considering post-Brexit options, many of the big players echoed the enthusiasm of Clive Hawksworth, of the remote Gambling Association, for Mr Isola’s promise of “unequivocal' government support for the industry in any post-Brexit developments.
Gibraltar was one of the few - if not the only - jurisdiction which gave such firm support something which will argue in the Rock’s favour in a post-Brexit world, Mr Hawksworth said.