Andrew Lyman, Gambling Commissioner for the Government of Gibraltar, is confident that the British overseas territory will maintain its status as an online gambling hub navigating Brexit business complexities.
Gibraltar’s Gambling Commissioner spoke to SBC News, as PM Boris Johnson’s new cabinet underlined that the UK will pursue no regulatory alignment with EU standards on business policy, immigration, worker protections, industry subsidies and competition rules.
Maintaining a high concentration of financial services and online gambling businesses, Gibraltar’s status post-Brexit is regarded as one of the most complex arrangements facing UK government negotiators.
Despite facing a number of uncertainties on how negotiations will proceed, Lyman stated that Gibraltar will maintain its industry presence regardless of outcomes.
“Gibraltar operators have already made contingency arrangements, in terms of licensing and corporate structuring to continue access to EU Markets, whilst maintaining a substantial presence in Gibraltar…I see no reason for that to change,” Lyman told SBC News.
Lyman underlined that his department is not treating Brexit as a ‘doom and gloom scenario’, having long accepted that Gibraltar’s business relationship will change with EU counterparts.
Leading regulatory oversight of Gibraltar’s gambling industry, Lyman said that the government is focusing on developing ‘reciprocal arrangements’ which will proceed any negotiated conclusions including a No Deal outcome.
Should no free trade agreement be secured, or online gambling be treated as a ‘reserved industry outside an FTA’, Lyman stated that implications ‘will not be all one way’.
“If the EU block access, by imposing data transfer restrictions or insisting servers are maintained in the EU/EEA, then I can see reciprocal arrangements being undertaken,” he said.
“This will mean that there could be a political decision that operators who wish to target the UK will have to be established in the UK/ Gibraltar/Crown dependencies and have servers located outside the EU (likely in UK, Gibraltar, Crown dependencies). This may also have attraction from a UK perspective at a political level.”
Despite inbound political disruptions, Lyman believes that the UK and European online gambling sector will continue to be maintained by the jurisdictions of Gibraltar and Malta, as operators undertake structural adjustments.
The Commissioner dismisses reports of tensions between Gibraltar and Malta, competing to attract gambling enterprises post-Brexit as a false narrative.
“Plainly we want an open market, but if not there will be two-way disadvantage to a two-way opportunity,” he continued.
“Operators cannot expect the current situation to exist where the UK can be accessed from Malta after transition if there is no UK/EU agreement. I have no axe to grind with Malta, it will be an EU hub and Gibraltar will sustain (and possibly grow) as a UK hub; alongside developing emerging market opportunities.”
Assessing No Deal consequences, Lyman cited ‘frontier risks’ between Gibraltar and Spain as a greater business factor, supporting the Gibraltar government’s stance that borders cannot be closed ‘as a fundamental breach of EU principles regarding third countries bordering the EU’.
Should No Deal be triggered, Lyman believes that the Gibraltar government would come to a mutual agreement with Spanish counterparts, given the ‘inextricable link’ between Spanish workers residing in the ‘Campo Area’ who require access to border fluidity.
Entering a new decade for Gibraltar’s business community, Lyman sought to move online gambling’s narrative beyond Brexit by developing effective regulatory frameworks to attract talent and tackle the sector’s complexities on sustainability.
He said: “Gibraltar remains a hub for remote gambling with a concentration of talent and intellectual property. We are still fielding incoming licensing applications and we are currently rewriting the gambling legislation which will accommodate some flexibility on IT infrastructure.
“Whilst gambling is a controversial subject in the UK, Gibraltar enjoys cross-party political support and we see no reason why the UK will not support policies that sustain the gambling industry here.”