SiGMA meets with Hon. Jose Herrera

When asked whether he thinks that Malta can lay claim to the title of the Silicon Valley of remote gaming, the Hon. Dr. Herrera starts off by reminding how Malta established itself a major player in the industry in just fifteen years, partly thanks to its competitiveness in offering the type of financial services remote gaming companies seek.

The basis of Malta’s success can be found in the quality of the human resources available locally. In fact, the gaming the industry employs approx. 8,000 people, not counting the variety of secondary services used by gaming companies, including marketing and data hosting. The effect this has on the Maltese economy is significant. Gaming contributes to 10% of the GDP, two-thirds of which is accounted for by remote gaming.

Moreover, the igaming industry injects more than €50 million annually to the national coffers through direct taxation. The Hon. Dr Herrera reassures companies and potential investors that Malta takes the needs of the igaming industry very seriously. There are currently discussions underway between the LGA and the industry on the possibility of setting up an Academy of Gaming, which will provide specialised training courses in igaming to supply the industry with the skilled workforce it requires.

Besides investing in the local workforce, the Maltese government intends to set up Gaming Malta, an organisation tasked exclusively with the mission of promoting Malta abroad as an igaming hub and attract quality investment to the islands. Its objectives will be focused exclusively on promoting the igaming industry in Malta and encouraging more companies to establish themselves in this country.

The Hon. Dr Herrera emphasises that Gaming Malta will not impinge on the regulatory aspect of the business, an aspect which will remain firmly within the LGA’s scope. The two institutions will therefore complement each other, and igaming companies will be able to benefit from more personalised attention to their needs. This situation parallels what has already been done very successfully with Malta Enterprise, which focuses on attracting foreign business, and the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) which regulates the sector. In the course of the interview, the Hon.

Dr Herrera also touched upon the role of the Responsible Gaming Foundation. This institution has two main scopes: to help various NGOs in Malta using funds donated by gaming companies, and also to embark on education campaigns that raise awareness about illegal gambling and help vulnerable people who are who are addicted to gambling. Furthermore, during the past months The LGA has initiated a number of consultations with the industry in order to identify and address a number of key priority areas warranting special focus. These include amongst others, the administrative collaboration with other gaming jurisdictions, tackling cross-border regulatory & operational challenges, the development of policy in consonance with other related sectors (e.g. ICT, communications), evolving social considerations in regulatory practices, fraud prevention, consumer protection and fighting match fixing in sports are to be actively pursued.

To this effect the LGA has embarked on a reformist strategic exercise identifying key objectives and policy updates for the coming years in order to propose to the Maltese Government a number of initiatives which primarily include a new regulatory framework to be launched in 2015. This new framework is intended to revamp and consolidate all gaming activities under one law. The need to overhaul and consolidate the gaming regulatory regime in Malta is long overdue when one considers the developments which took place over the last decade particularly in consumer demands, technology and the broader regulatory landscape globally.

Therefore, the consolidation, restructuring and re-scoping of the Maltese gaming regulation is expected to give both the LGA and the operators more legal certainty, consistency, and clarity. It will also modernise the Maltese gaming regulatory framework to a model which is growth focused, innovative and cutting edge. Malta’s success as a gaming hub is attributed to a number of factors which make Malta a distinctive gaming jurisdiction of international status. The package of incentives includes a robust ICT infrastructure, an English speaking population, a strong education system and a regulatory framework that focuses on consumer protection, fairness of games, strict compliance and the prevention of money laundering and other crimes.

The remote gaming industry in Malta has a bright future ahead and should maintain a positive growth trend through the efforts by the present government, together with the Lotteries and Gaming Authority and the private industry. When asked if he thinks that Malta still has potential to grow its reach in the igaming market or whether a saturation point is imminent, the Hon. Dr Herrera replied that there is still a lot of scope for expansion left and that an outreach program has been set up to entice more investors from Asia and South America to move their operations to Malta.

Ultimately, Malta has to be a leading force in finding innovative solutions to present and future challenges facing the industry. The Hon. Dr Herrera is positive that this is already the case and, thanks to the local political consensus on the importance of the igaming industry, Malta’s success story has far from reached a conclusion yet.

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