The exponential growth of the Malta gaming industry over the past 16 years is, without doubt, a strength for the island of Malta. It was 2004 when the then 'LGA – Lotteries & Gaming Authority' and Maltese government enacted sector-specific iGaming regulations catering for a wide range of game classes including business to consumer licences for Casino, Sportsbook and Poker as well as a business to business class covering platform and managed services.

Fast forward 16 years and Malta has undoubtedly moved from strength to strength in establishing itself as THE 'de facto' leader of its class in iGaming regulation and innovation worldwide. Like any industry riding the upwards growth curve, iGaming companies in Malta flourished, thousands of ex-pats sought to work on the island and Malta became the envy of the EU.

iGaming now accounts for approx. 13% of Malta's GDP, approximately 10,000 employees work directly in the sector and the direct/indirect resultant economic benefits are being felt across various other local industries, namely, real estate, construction, banking, IT, accommodation and recreational services. It is most certainly not a coincidence that this growth happened in such a short span of time.

A carefully implemented strategy at Governmental level coupled with a dynamic Gaming Authority always ready for change and proactive in its measures left no stone unturned to provide fertile ground for an eco-system to thrive.

Covid-19 and iGaming in Malta

The recent ongoing 'Covid-19' pandemic was indeed also a test on the robustness of the sector and its ability to keep going notwithstanding the restrictions. The truth is that like the business itself it is ONLINE and on the Internet so most companies simply moved employees to work remotely. The fact that more players/punters were at home meant that more players signed up to play which in turn provided operators with a massive increase in revenues.

The Malta Gaming Authority was also fast to react and literally moved all services, submissions and documentation checks to its portal. We witnessed therefore a whole ecosystem dynamically change its conventional bureaucratic approach to one of stealth and speed.

Malta, the island of choice for iGaming

Malta has become the destination of choice for a large majority of serious iGaming operators looking for a stable economy, advantageous tax rates and a skilled workforce. Malta's own Gaming Authority has managed to evolve and respond to market needs to provide a regulatory legal framework second to none.

Having dealt with numerous operators setting up on Malta, the key contributors to this success are primarily the sound and responsive regulatory framework in which operators operate in coupled with the extremely innovative service providers and members of the local iGaming eco-system.

The one-stop shop approach adopted by major service providers also frees operators from dealing with multiple parties whilst still benefiting from cost-effective solutions. Doing business on the island is fast, sustainable and transparent.

We also know that technology moves faster than regulation. This has over the years created a few issues for specific operators willing to invest and develop games that have not been licensable. It was, therefore, crucial for the Malta Gaming Authority to reach out to the industry with an aim of becoming a champion of regulatory innovation.

In 2018 a revamp of Malta's regulatory framework ensured the sustainability of the industry for the years to come. Positioning for Malta is now key to attracting more operators to its shores. Malta offers 'Lifestyle', ease of connection to most EU capitals, financial incentives to both firms and individuals working within regulated frameworks as well as a thriving financial services sector that keeps supporting the industry with intelligent, sustainable and innovative incentives for growth.

The availability of large workspaces and the telecommunications developments on Malta has also set the scene for very large operators relocating hundreds of personnel to the island.

Jobs in the iGaming Industry

The iGaming regulatory landscape is continually evolving and becoming ever more complex. Stringent licensing processes; closer monitoring of cross-border operations and the increased efforts to congeal principles of responsible gaming are amongst some of the key aspects high on the agenda for regulators, and in turn for operators and suppliers alike.

The industry has been traditionally popular to attract talent across a variety of technical skillsets. With the onset of further regulatory developments, operators have intensified the hiring for legal and regulatory professionals. This momentum has brought about increased pressures to attract the best talent from a relatively small talent pool which has similarly resulted in added costs of compliance.

Apart from the regulatory job opportunities – the growth of the industry continues to spearhead opportunities to work within other business domains. Supporting entities like corporate service providers, law firms, accountancy and audit firms continue their search to attract and recruit professionals with related iGaming experience – a recruiting drive which will unlikely cease anytime soon.

VacancyCentre provides specialist recruitment for technical professionals within Finance, Compliance & Technology.

AI and Blockchain implications on the Gaming industry

The proposition of Malta as a "blockchain island" has also infiltrated the gaming industry. Through recognition of virtual tokens and virtual financial assets, the Virtual Financial Assets Act sets the tone for the adoption of blockchain technology in the i-gaming industry in both game design and operation as well as the use of digital assets by players in such gaming operations.

Accordingly, we have seen heightened interest in ventures pertaining to decentralized online casinos which allow for publicly trusted game development and initial virtual financial asset offerings by remote gambling operators, allowing their players to purchase digital assets which may be used for in-play purposes and for investment driven trading purposes.

The MGA's launch of a sandbox regime for licensees under its wing, to foster for innovative technology products and the use of such digital assets by gaming operators, paves the way for a suitable stepping stone whereby products may be tested within a controlled environment prior to being launched to the public at large. This all adds value towards consumer protection and towards ensuring that decentralized products released to the public are of the highest standards in terms of security, transparency and accessibility.

About the Authors

This article has been co-authored by Roger A. Strickland Jr., CSB Group Director and iGaming Consultant, Robert Sultana, Vacancy Centre General Manager and Kyle Scerri, CSB Group Regulated Industries & Compliance Advisor.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.