eSummit reflects on a new era for the gaming industry

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Despite taking place just days after the recent announcement that Gibraltar has become subject to increased monitoring by the Financial Action Task Force, the news did not deter this year’s KPMG Gibraltar eSummit for the gaming industry from looking ahead to a new era.

Held as usual on the Sunborn Yacht hotel, the 2022 eSummit attracted over 200 delegates to discuss all things in the gaming world. The latest in what has become an eagerly anticipated annual event, it offered an impressive line-up of speakers and panellists to discuss the new developments, trends and activity in the industry.

Opening the conference, Minister for Digital and Financial Services, Albert Isola, said the announcement that Gibraltar was subject to increased monitoring – being placed on a so-called “grey list” – was disappointing but that Gibraltar would get on with business and Government would commit to understanding the problems and working through them together with the industry.

“I have no hesitation in telling you that in 12 months we will be off the list,” he added, saying that the news should not “cloud the incredible work put in over recent years, especially by the Gibraltar Gaming Commission” which had worked very hard to get Gibraltar in a better place with regulations that are much better equipped for the future. Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner, Andrew Lyman, reiterated his own disappointment at the grey listing, especially considering that “the Gibraltar Gambling Commission has been the most active domestic regulator on sanctions” but also vowed to prove that regulated bodies were dealing with risk effectively and that sanctions, where appropriate, were proportionate.

He also updated delegates on the progress of the Gibraltar Gambling Act and an impending consultation period on the licensing framework and fees. Mr Lyman said the Government was working towards delivering a “modern and flexible Act for a new era” that would secure growth for the sector and “attract new business in a changing gambling landscape, which includes multi-jurisdictional location.”

Mr Lyman encouraged delegates based in Gibraltar to participate in the Needs Assessment being run by the Centre of Excellence for Responsible Gambling at the University of Gibraltar. Aimed at gauging the education, training and research and services needed to support gaming employees and players, the results of the assessment would provide a roadmap for CERG, the local industry and stakeholders in other jurisdictions, he said.

Gambling Act White Paper

KPMG Senior Advisor Bill Robinson spoke about the combined impact of the pandemic and inflation/cost of living crises, noting that high inflation is often a precursor to recession. While some of the conditions for an extended period of inflation are in place, the outcomes would be influenced by how Governments reacted, he said. The good news for the gaming industry is that it has historically been very resilient and gambling spend tended to be a very consistent proportion of customers’ budgets.

Also highly topical was the session on the UK Gambling Act White Paper led by Seamus McGowan and a panel that included Wes Himes from the UK Betting & Gaming Council. It had been expected that the White Paper would be published by the time of the eSummit but it has been subject to further delay. Panellists discussed the likely contents of the White Paper and also the UKGC’s aims to “minimise consultation fatigue” and the risks this might present to the industry in responding with feedback to the proposed changes.

Elsewhere, Ivor Jones from Peel Hunt led a session on Capital Markets which looked at value creation in gaming companies and recent M&A activity in the market, while KPMG’s Adam Rivers and Anna Soilleux Mills from CMS presented on Consumer Protection and Choice Architecture. Appearing virtually from the US, Susan Hensel led a panel of north American regulators from Colorado, Tennessee, Ohio and Ontario who gave a fascinating insight into how sports betting is developing – and the accompany varying regulatory approaches – in different states.

ESG is becoming an increasingly important part of business strategy and Charlie Leach from KPMG hosted a session on how the eGaming industry can transition to a more sustainable, responsible and resilient future that touched on carbon management and the growing demands from Millennials and Gen Z to act as a force for good.

Power Presentations

This was followed by a discussion on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Gaming Sector led by Micky Swindale which explored the experience of an all-female panel in their careers to date and how companies can make progress in the workplace.

As ever, the eSummit finished with a lively panel made up from major players in the eGaming sector who reflected on key developments and trends in the industry. Throughout the day delegates also had the opportunity to attend a number of “Power Presentations” covering Gibraltar-focused issues and various regulatory topics.

Speaking after the event, KPMG Global Head of Leisure Will Hawkley paid tribute to all the speakers and panellists for sharing their knowledge and expertise.

“It’s clear that although there may be some tough times ahead for the economy and potential challenges on the regulatory front, there is also plenty of opportunity for the eGaming sector,” he said. “I am always amazed at the breadth of topics we cover in these eSummits and the progress that so many companies are making in so many different directions.

Steph Beavis, Managing Director of KPMG Gibraltar, said she was delighted the event was so well-attended, adding: “We are proud to support the industry in Gibraltar and to deliver such a compelling agenda on issues that have such strong relevance for the sector. The eSummit is also a great opportunity for delegates to network and it was fantastic to see people making new contacts and developing business relationships. I am sure everyone has left with plenty of food for thought and we look forward to gathering together again next year to see how the industry evolves over the coming months.”