After a delay of 15 months due to the pandemic, the latest eSummit took place onboard the Sunborn Yacht Hotel in September, with a large and enthusiastic audience in attendance, Tony Alan reports
Delegates at the much-anticipated 10th KPMG Gibraltar eSummit were given a valuable insight into the new Gambling 2021 Act, as industry leaders gathered together to discuss the latest developments.
As well as all the usual updates and news from the global gaming industry, there was a particular focus on the here and now for Gibraltar with reflections on how both the Corona Virus and Brexit have impacted the sector.
Opening the conference, Minister for Digital and Financial Services, Albert Isola said that Gibraltar’s gaming businesses had shown themselves to be “more resilient than most” over the previous 18 months with Gibraltar Betting & Gaming Association members voluntarily receiving “not a penny” in financial support from the Gibraltar Government during the pandemic.
He also paid tribute to the sector for its adaptation over Brexit and the natural transition that had occurred with the loss of EU business and a new focus on the UK and rest of world markets. “When this conference first started in 2011, there were around 2,000 employed in the gaming industry, a very good number,” he said. “At the height of Brexit in 2016, we had 3,500 employed in the sector and today, having lost all of the EU business, we have around 3,400. Which tells me that, despite the loss of the EU business, you have continued to grow. I congratulate you on that”.
Looking forwards, he said “border fluidity” was the “number one priority on our 2016 heat map” and that work was continuing on the Schengen Treaty to enable businesses “to continue to grow on the basis of shared prosperity”. At the same time a Plan B for a no negotiated position well-advanced.
The importance of border fluidity was also raised as a key issue in the operators’ discussion panel later in the day, where a team of representatives from some of the big names in the industry (Kindred, Entain, Gamesys and Lottoland) looked at trends over the past 10 years and opportunities and challenges to come.
It was agreed most businesses had been quick to adapt during the pandemic, harnessing technology to cope with remote working and the increasing demand for online services. The gradual move towards more of an “entertainment” format was noted, as well as the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence to identify potential problem behaviour. The panel also felt there had been a shift in focus of stakeholders from concentrating solely on responsible gambling to a wider ESG perspective that took in early education and environmental issues such as carbon neutrality along with diversity in the workforce.
Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner, Andrew Lyman gave delegates a presentation on the draft Gambling Act 2021 which seeks to modernise the regulatory framework and maintain Gibraltar as an attractive remote gambling hub and key licensing jurisdiction.
Mr Lyman outlined how the changing nature of gambling businesses, with increasing reliance on the cloud and diversified supply chains, meant there was a need to update regulation to keep up with how the industry was developing. New proposals under the draft Act include new investigation powers and sanctions along with notice rights and rights of appeal as well as the introduction of an approved persons regime.
Businesses will still be required to have “substance” in Gibraltar but there will be a more flexible approach proportionate to the nature and size of a business and its overall economic value. The draft Act is currently undergoing a final review within Government.
A copy of the draft Act and explanatory note is expected to be issued to stakeholders shortly which will be followed by consultation on licensing categories, fees, codes and secondary legislation.
Elsewhere at the conference, there were insights into the USA and Canadian markets as well as a “fireside chat” involving former Chief Minister, Sir Peter Caruana QC, Peter Montegriffo, QC of Hassans and Peter Isola, Senior Partner at Isolas, reflecting on the previous decade of eGaming in Gibraltar.
Simon French of Panmure Gordon gave an update on the capitals market, noting that the market capitalisation of the four largest listed companies is now in excess of US$120bn and that, such is the pace of mergers and acquisitions, none of the quoted big four existed in their current form five years ago. This was underlined by the announcement of Draftkings £17bn approach for Entain two days before the conference.
There was also a focus on regulation and responsible gambling both in the UK and Gibraltar with Professor Zsolt Demetrovics, Chair of the Centre of Excellence in Responsible Gaming at the University of Gibraltar, outlining some of the challenges in developing effective interventions and understanding the difference between recreational gambling and behaviour that may be harmful.
Minister Isola had earlier encouraged operators to engage with the University in providing data for the research and reiterated the government’s wish for all members of staff with customer interaction to attend a responsible gambling course “to put our jurisdiction ahead of the curve in terms of responsible gambling”. These courses are currently being designed.
A series of three masterclasses in regulation and tax were held alongside the conference and Stephanie Beavis, Managing Director of KPMG Gibraltar, brought the day to a close by thanking all the speakers and sponsors who enabled the event to take place.
“The KPMG eGaming Summit has been a key event in the calendar for 10 years,” she said, “Despite having to put the event on hold in 2020, we were determined to get it done this year.” A special thank you was extended to Micky Swindale, KPMG Global Gaming Team and COO/Head of Markets, KPMG Islands Group, who was the impetus for the first Gibraltar eSummit in 2011 and has overseen the event each year since.