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Network News • 13-06-2022

An iGaming epiphany in Malta

Author: Dr Lina Klesper - Legal assistant at PKF Malta
Published on Malta Independent: 13th June 2022

When talking about iGaming one has also to talk about Malta and vice versa. Since the early 2000s when the first iGaming company set foot on the island, a flourishing ecosystem for the iGaming industry has emerged in Malta. Globally the iGaming industry is worth more than €250bn. New technology, applications and interfaces have made the customer experience as attractive and accessible as never before covering the broad interests as well as serving niches. 

In 2020, the global gambling sector suffered its worst drop in revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic which caused it to lose almost US$100bn. The global gambling sector began its recovery in 2021 and rose back above US$400bn in 2021 to US$410bn. Digital sales channels have certainly helped the global gambling sector to be resilient, and recover, from the Covid-19 pandemic when venues such as casinos and betting shops were closed for long periods in many jurisdictions. The factor of the convenience of iGaming is not to be neglected as enjoying one's favourite casino games from the comfort of one's home, especially during lockdowns and pandemic times, was a big advantage. During that time iGaming logically gained in popularity. Before the pandemic, e-gaming accounted for only 12-13% of global gambling revenues whereas its market share leapt to 19% in 2020 and provisional figures suggest it even surpassed 21% in 2021. 

Malta's iGaming industry has shown remarkable resilience, is buzzing and is only becoming more and more outstanding. Despite the countless setbacks faced by businesses since March 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic, the iGaming business proved vigilant and has no intention of slowing down. The iGaming industry makes up 11% of Malta's GDP and with a high demand for workers in security auditing, web hosting, legal work and customer care, creates a trickle-down effect in the labour market.

At this point, it may be wise to recap why Malta is attractive for iGaming companies to set up in the first place. Malta has great infrastructure and plenty of talent; letting the industry gravitate to the island. Low fees and taxes on revenue and low-cost licensing infrastructure make Malta the perfect home and starting point for new companies. The numbers basically speak for themselves since today there are more than 250 iGaming companies registered in Malta.

Malta is also a hotspot for iGaming conferences and events. In May Malta's Spring iGaming Week was held, including the CasinoBeats Summit, at the InterContinental in St Julian's, where professionals exchanged their predictions for the industry. While the influence of the Metaverse is already noted by many companies, the biggest issue discussed is by far regulation. Luckily, for companies based in Malta, the situation of regulation should not be of much concern compared to other countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and Ireland. The trend in those countries is leading towards stricter regulations with a possibility of higher taxes. In that regard, Malta will still be at a competitive advantage.

In general, experts predict a bright future for the industry with €254bn by 2030. Malta will for sure continue to contribute its share to this success story as technology is continuously evolving and the popularity of gaming in the realms of the worldwide web is rising with the Metaverse ahead, where new possibilities will give users an even more exciting experience. The Metaverse is a challenging thing to define, partly because it's an abstract concept and because no one has created one yet, the exact scope of what we're talking about is still a bit blurry. To define the Metaverse it makes sense to look to fiction, where the term was originally coined. The Metaverse could be defined as a multi-user real-time virtual space where individuals around the world can connect via a network, co-exist and socialise. A Metaverse online casino could be designed to closely mirror the gaming floors in integrated resorts in cities like Las Vegas and Macau or it could be made to look completely different, perhaps with different theming options.

Many games and platforms exist already that could fit this description, but what sets apart the Metaverse from a traditional multiplayer experience is the ability for players to create and share content to shape the world around them in a more or less persistent setting. For instance, we can mention that Fortnite, Roblox and other big titles have slowly evolved from games to online spaces where people can interact and spend virtual currency on in-game items to build relationships and experience something fun and unique. Technologies like virtual reality are still maturing and the agreed definition of what the Metaverse actually is, is still to be defined. That said, the iGaming industry's track record of embracing new ideas shows us we can expect it to be at the forefront of this new digital world. Many believe the Metaverse is the next logical evolution of the internet, so it's easy to see why so many big industry players are racing to stake their claim and take as big a piece of the pie as possible. So much so that even South Korea has begun laying the foundation for its Metaverse, as it recently created an alliance between a host of the country's industry-leading tech companies. Most recently, Facebook came out and declared itself a contributor to bringing about the Metaverse.

Locally, the Metaverse was a prominent feature of the Opposition's political manifest. The Opposition was pledging to attract companies working in this space as part of a €1bn package to diversify the economy. It is too early to see whether the incumbent at Castille will decide to throw its weight to promote this exciting technology in anticipation of the nascent iGaming industry's future growth.

To conclude, with Malta's proven track record to be quick to adapt, the island will surely go beyond and hit an epiphany in the next iGaming generation. 

Author: Dr Lina Klesper - Legal assistant at PKF Malta
Published on Malta Independent: 13th June 2022
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