The Brexit referendum took place a long time ago, back in 2016, and there is still no exit deal in place between the UK and the EU. Naturally, this long period of uncertainty has proved difficult for a long row of businesses – including those active in the gambling sector.
A multitude of questions are facing gambling companies both within the UK and in the other parts of the European Union, such as:
- How will this impact the validity and effect of our UK and non-UK gambling licenses, for non-UK and UK players?
- Will the expected logistics problems impact the running of our business or the financial situation of our clients?
- Will the supply or EU workers shrink in the UK, and will the supply of UK workers sink in the EU?
- What will happen to British overseas territories? Will they be able to negotiate some sort of special deal with the EU?
What will happen with Gibraltar in the event of a no-deal Brexit?
Quite a few online casinos have operations in Gibraltar, the 6.7 km2 British overseas territory located at the southern top of the Iberian Peninsula.
Roughly half of Gibraltar’s labour market is made up by people who live in Spain and commute to Gibraltar, and a no-deal Brexit would make this commute considerably more complicated – and it would also impact their legal rights to work anywhere in the UK, including Gibraltar. Unsurprisingly, a whopping 96% of the referendum voters in Gibraltar voted to remain in the EU.
The Gibraltar government now fears that a no-deal Brexit will result in a hard border between Spain and Gibraltar, something which would impact both the labour force and the import of goods.
For Gambling companies based in Gibraltar, the main concern is not about being able to quickly get food and toilet paper from Spain, but the fact that gambling sites open to customers in the EU need to be licensed by a EU member state. If the UK leaves the EU, gambling licenses issued by Gibraltar or the British Gambling Commission no longer fulfil this requirement.
Several companies are therefore already planning a move from Gibraltar to Malta.
Exodus to Malta
Several companies have announced plans to move to Malta in the event of no-deal Brexit, and some have already taken notable steps.
- 888 has already obtained a gambling license from Malta and established a server farm in Ireland.
- William Hill (WMH) relocated its international operation from Gibraltar to Malta after having acquired Mr Green. The WHM UK digital operations are still in Gibraltar, giving them access to the UK market even after a no-deal Brexit.
- GVC has not made any move yet, but has announced that they have detailed plans prepared that involves operating part of their business from Malta with a Maltese gambling license in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Gambling servers will be located in Ireland. GVC also have practical contingency arrangements in place to be able to help employees who live in Spain and work in Gibraltar.
- Flutter Entertainment (FLTR), formerly Paddy Power Betfair, moved operations from Gibraltar to Malta in 2017 and no longer holds a Gibraltar gambling license. With plenty of workers in both London and Dublin, FLTR benefits from the agreement between the Irish and UK governments that give British and Irish citizens the right to move freely and reside in either country under Common Travel Area (CTA) rules. Issues could, however, arise for Flutter’s centres in Portugal and Romania.