As published in the BusinessWeekly on Sunday the 30th of June 2013
I still remember with nostalgia the early days of the old Gaming Board that in 2001 was contemplating the Internet revolution in casino games. It braced itself to grapple with ethereal virtual games¸ which appear to come through the clouds from nowhere and can be a regulator’s nightmare when it comes to identify the source or¸ even worse¸ the ownership of the game engine.
However¸ the government of the day was well advised not to fear the challenges of the wireless industry and set the ball in motion by getting a number of political appointees together with ex-gaming board hopefuls to draft the Lotteries and Other Games Act in 2001. Really and truly there was not much to build on in those early days when bandwidth was modest and ISPs were only just starting to invest in back end equipment. There were no banks who would lend to foreign operators who tested the waters in those pioneer days since the taboo associated with the industry was a deterrent and banks considered the sector a high risk. Again¸ no banks were ready to cash in on the lucrative business of credit card processing¸ which to this day (with minor exceptions) is all handled by overseas banks not licensed in Malta.
I recall the excitement when I was invited by our PKF office in Sydney¸ Australia in 2001 to promote Malta’s sports book licences (then the only category available). The trip was successful and I succeeded to license in Malta the first listed sports book operator who was operating on a license issued in Darwin
For three long years PKF had lobbied the government and wrote regular articles in the Times of Malta about the economic contribution that such a well-regulated industry can provide well-paid jobs¸ generate tax revenue and create a positive multiplier effect. During the three long years it took the Lotteries and Gaming Authority to research the best gaming duty and other operating rules for prospective applicants¸ PKF had taken a proactive role in organising the first “Small Jurisdictions” conference in 2002 as day one of a three-day event in Barcelona which was the precursor to today’s much acclaimed EIG event. Not being high in the pecking order of the political hegemony¸ which was swiftly attracted to the new openings¸ PKF tried but failed to persuade a top official of the gaming board to address the Barcelona event. The event was well attended and opened the floodgates for PKF to meet the giants of the international remote gaming industry.
In 2004¸ a new suite of licences covering poker¸ sports book¸ casino games and software vendors were introduced and the industry since then has grown from strength to strength. Employment generated by the regulated gaming industry grew year on year¸ the overall gross gaming revenue exploded while the number of licensed operators grew from 12 in 2004 to almost 250. The number of online gaming licences reached the 425 mark in 2012 when the LGA was awarded th