Andrew Lyman, the Executive Director and Head of Regulation at the Gibraltar Gambling Division has said that despite the challenges of Brexit, the Gaming Industry in Gibraltar continues to grow.
"Whilst Brexit creates challenges for the Gibraltar gambling industry, the number of companies licensed in Gibraltar, around 30, has not declined. In fact there have been new licensees in the past eighteen months in both the B2C and B2B sectors. Even after Brexit, Gibraltar will remain a significant online gaming hub.
In terms of people employed in the gaming industry, bet 365’s strategic decision to relocate part of its business in Malta, will result in some reduction in overall gaming staff numbers in Gibraltar (3600 down to 3300), but even in that case, a significant number of staff opted not to leave Gibraltar and many have been reabsorbed by other operators. Bet 365 has also retained substance in Gibraltar and will continue to operate part of its business from the jurisdiction.
Whilst William Hill has acquired a Malta based operator (Mr Green) and will run its European operations from Malta, it will remain committed to Gibraltar and there is no indication that staff numbers will be reduced; indeed it may increase marketing strength here.
Other major brands have given commitments to remain in Gibraltar and whilst there has been some need for corporate and IT architectural restructuring there is no sign of an exodus post Brexit.
In fact industry dynamics such as industry consolidation, increasing levels of European regulation, cloud technology and the opening up of new markets are a bigger issue for the gambling industry then Brexit. In the event of a “hard Brexit”, it may be that operators based in other EU27 countries may not be able to access the UK market (which is currently the EU’s biggest gambling market). For Gibraltar based companies, on the other hand, this access to the UK market has been guaranteed.
Today, a large majority of the Gibraltar based gaming industry is either UK or non- European facing, but European support services are also based in Gibraltar. Significant profits will continue to be accrued or derived by gambling companies in Gibraltar post Brexit.
The Gibraltar gambling industry proposition has changed overtime to a sophisticated multi-jurisdictional and global offering. The roots of the industry are deep here and one cannot underestimate the upheaval and business disruption of moving out of the jurisdiction. The industry also enjoys Government support and is welcome here. That counts for a lot at both an individual and corporate level.
Whilst the gambling industry, like many other service industries, was generally hoping for the withdrawal of Article 50 or for a managed exit, business planning has generally taken place on a worst case scenario. This planning has included business contingency arrangements for some initial friction at the border.
Border closure is a remote possibility (to close an EU to non EU border would in fact be a breach of EU law). It would also impact the economy of the “Campo” area around Gibraltar because of the many thousands of Spanish workers that cross the frontier to work each day. Gibraltar is not in the customs union and existing customs procedures are already in place. There has been encouraging political contact with Spain (local and national authorities) and whilst things will be different (Gibraltar will be a third country jurisdiction like the UK) and there will be teething problems, the issues are not considered to be insurmountable.
It is hoped that economic sense will prevail and that Spanish authorities will not want to impose economic misery on its own people in an area which already has very high levels of unemployment and poverty. Gibraltar already contributes 25% of the GDP of the adjacent Spanish region. The decline of the gaming industry in Gibraltar would be as bad for Spain as it would be for Gibraltar.