Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta spoke about online gambling on the opening day of the SiGMA 18 gaming conference, which began at Malta Fairs and Conventionus Centre in the Ta’Qali section of the town of Attard. Muscat said that innovation was the key factor in the digital gaming sector’s growth over the past two decades.
This is the fifth-annual SiGMA i-Gaming conference, which has drawn more operators than ever before. Much of the discussion on Day One includes Malta’s new iGaming Law, which includes a unified self-exclusion system and other responsible gaming measures.
The star of the first day was the Maltese prime minister. Joseph Muscat pointed blockchain gambling and AI as possible areas of growth in the coming years. He added that “Malta is a centre of excellence in this space. The digital gaming sector in 2018 is drastically different from the tech centre of a decade ago.”
Malta’s top official said his country’s embrace of innovation has been the reason so many companies seek licenses in his country. Telling the assembled gaming operators they must continue to push the envelope, the prime minister said, “Innovation must be constant and ever-evolving.”
iGaming’s Emerging Tech Trilogy
Muscat described iGaming, blockchain technology, and artificial intelligence (AI) as an emerging tech trilogy which is important for Malta’s economic future. The leader of the Partit Laburista party, who has served as Malta’s prime minister since 2013, said, “Blockchain presents itself as an opportunity not only for our country in terms of investments and of course the direct impact in creating further quality jobs but also enhances the iGaming ecosystem.”
Without elaborating as much on the subject, the Maltese prime minister added, “AI is also an area which we are very keen on.”
Esports and Entertainment in Online Gambling
In the remainder of his speech, Joseph Muscat touched on the video game arena, specifically the growth of Esports in the online gaming industry. He discussed how the entertainment industry might overlap with the iGaming world in the coming years.
Muscat said his governing philosophy was to encourage many avenues of growth for tech businesses. The longtime Maltese politician said it is important for these various pathways to success be given parallel development to see where they might lead.
Malta vs. Gibraltar
Malta soon could become an even bigger player in the global online gaming industry. Its top competitor in the iGaming licensing area is Gibraltar, which faces an uncertain future in the business. Gibraltar is at the center of the Brexit negotiations at the moment, as the small enclave at the tip of the Iberian peninsula was a part of the British Empire for two centuries.
Now a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and a British Overseas Territory with autonomous rule, Gibraltar has been a hub for UK online gambling companies which want to relocate overseas for tax reasons. As a part of the UK’s sphere, Gibraltar is a part of the European Union currently. Negotiations between the UK and EU might leave Gibraltar outside the EU, which could hurt its status as an iGaming tax haven.
About SiGMA 18
SiGMA 18 (for the year 2018) is the fifth-annual online gaming conference. This year breaks all previous records and takes the convention to another level with 12,000 registered attendees. Gaming companies from 80 different countries are in attendance. While SiGMA is not the event the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) or ICE Gaming conference is, the 3-day event helps online gaming operators show their latest technology, liaison with fans, and network with other gaming groups.
Malta’s iGaming Act
Day 1 of the conference featured a discussion of Malta’s new iGaming Act, including how the iGaming law should affect license holders in the coming years. Heathcliff Farrugia, the chief executive of the Malta Gaming Authority, chaired the discussion on the iGaming Law.
Jesper Svensson, the CEO of Betsson Group, said the new gaming law should help operators. Svensson said, “I think the new framework now is a very good framework. It’s more detailed in various ways but that would give us more clarity. It is simplified.”
“I think they (MGA) have listened enough to the operators at the same time as they put up a really robust framework. All in all, it is a positive thing for us.”
Yanica Sant on Malta’s Unified Self-Exclusion System
Yanica Sant, a top member of the Malta Gaming Authority, said the new law strengthens consumer protections by adding responsible gaming measures like a self-exclusion program. Sant said of the program, “It is a massive project. We are aware of the challenges it is imposing.”
“We are aware that this is going to take a while and it’s not something that is, obviously, going to be out by the end of this year, but we are working on it because we truly believe that this was a gap in our consumer protection framework and we’re trying to close that gap.”