In the first of a two-part series, Brian Stevendale – a 20-year veteran of the Fairhomes Group, an Investment and Property Development Group located in the World Trade Center Gibraltar – writes for SBC News about the gaming-friendly ecosystem on ‘the Rock’ and why so many enjoy doing business in the sun.
Julian Jarvis is the CEO at Pragmatic Play, and a man whose CV reads like a literal ‘Who’s Who’ of gaming and legal experience.
Yet when he moved to Gibraltar in January 2005, he had no idea that he would still be here over 15 years later as the CEO of a multi-award winning iGaming company, living a high quality family life in the sun, while still maintaining strong and familiar ties to Britain.
Prior to moving to Gibraltar, Jarvis was a senior in-house lawyer with AOL Europe (part of AOL Time Warner), based in London and managing a team of EU lawyers.
He has worked in multiple gaming related industries on the Rock, including PartyGaming Plc (now GVC) which was the first FTSE listed egaming company, being part of the founding team at Odobo, the first HTML5 games developer platform, and the founder of Rockchain, one of the first sponsor firms on the Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX).
He said: “I didn’t really know anything about Gibraltar before I came here (as part of my interview process), and I actually thought Gibraltar was an island before I looked it up on the map.
“We have since had four children here and love the lifestyle — a forward-looking business environment, friendly local community, fabulous weather and a safe place to bring up our children with access to some amazing opportunities within Gibraltar and in the easily accessible region of Andalucía.”
Gibraltar’s gaming-friendly ecosystem
Jarvis’ gaming business success-story is a typical one for this area. “If you are a high-quality B2C Operator or B2B supplier to the online gaming industry, Gibraltar remains a leading jurisdiction for both the business and for the owners and executives behind it,” he added.
“Gibraltar has a business-friendly approach that makes it easy for good companies to set up and operate. There are many local advisers ready to support set-up, and the relevant government representatives and their teams are accessible and practical in their support.”
As a 20-year veteran of the team who built the World Trade Center in Gibraltar as well as Ocean Village, I was well aware of the Rock’s conduciveness to the gaming industry. That was one of the reasons we decided to build the 253,600 square feet, seven-storey structure in the first place, under the esteemed World Trade Center Association’s umbrella.
But I’m an Investment and Property Development bloke, not a lawyer or the CEO of a gaming business. So, I decided to reach out to Jarvis and a few more of our World Trade Center partners to get their opinion on living and working in Gibraltar.
Peter Howitt is the MD of Ince Gibraltar, part of the Ince Group plc, an international law and professional services firm. Ince Gibraltar provides turnkey solutions for gaming and sponsor companies seeking to move their offices to Gibraltar, assisting them with everything from obtaining their gaming licence to providing accounting and legal services once they are registered and up-and-running.
“Gibraltar already has a number of major online brands,” said Howitt. “These include GVC (Ladbrokes/Coral brands), William Hill Online, 888, Bet Victor, Gamesys, Lottoland, Betfred and others. We continue to see interest in relocating to Gibraltar from approximately five to ten operators each quarter.”
Setting up a gaming business in Gibraltar is easy if you do it right
Monika Thys is the Practice Development Manager at Ince Gibraltar. She explained to me the basic procedure for getting a gaming biz up and running on the Rock.
Licensing is the first step, but to get a licence, the prospective company needs to present a thorough and sound business model to the Gaming Regulator who will review it.
“There are various elements involved, not only regulatory,” she told me. “You need a business plan, due diligence on shareholders and directors, risk assessments, etc.”
And yet the general, unofficial feel in Gib is that setting up a gaming business is easy. Well, that’s because it is. From all appearances, the Gibraltarian government is both supportive and encouraging of new gaming companies that come to Gibraltar with the intention of doing serious business. Although no one says it officially, from personal observations I can tell you that it seems far less complicated than Malta.
In Gib, you get first-class standards, allowing your gaming business to thrive. One new operator told us that one of the reasons they are moving their business from Malta to Gib is that they operate in Japan. That same operator told us that Malta wasn’t happy with them operating in Japan, but that there’s no problem with it in Gibraltar.
Gibraltar is the place to be if you’re in gaming
“The gambling industry is a very large part of the Gibraltar economy, contributing around 25% of GDP, and employing some 3,200 workers,” said Howitt. “Companies based here pay corporation tax (10%), PAYE and a low rate of gaming tax (0.15% of gross gambling yield). There is no capital gains or VAT and this is very attractive to online businesses.
“Government sources suggest that at least 75% of UK online betting takes place in or from Gibraltar. Despite a difficult economic environment, betting and gaming operators continue to focus on growth on a worldwide scale and particularly online, with Gibraltar as their home jurisdiction.”
There are currently 35 approved B2B and B2C gaming licences in Gibraltar.
Jarvis added: “The Gibraltarian jurisdiction is probably the most experienced in the world at regulating online gambling, and this has focused on high-quality participants in the industry. Whether you are an industry giant or upcoming growth business, Gibraltar is a licensing jurisdiction you will want to be in as part of your overall business strategy.”
Doing business over lunch, in the sunshine
“A lot of deals are struck in the bars and restaurants of Ocean Village in Gibraltar,” said Jarvis. “Being able to meet your colleagues and many of your clients for lunch or dinner from time to time, in the sun by the water’s edge, is definitely a plus.
“The Ocean Village has a great range of restaurants and its waterside location makes it a pleasure to visit — for lunch, dinner or just as a route for walking between work and home.”
Some of those restaurants are the finest in the world, such as the luxurious Sunborn yacht-hotel, permanently moored at the marina. Or, if you fancy fine Asian food, you could head on over to Wagamama, or even to Pizza Express for some pizza.
“We are delighted to be based in the World Trade Center Gibraltar,” said Howitt. “It is a hub of activity for a wide range of businesses (online gaming, investment firms, family offices, financial services and blockchain businesses) and enables businesses to informally share information and enhance their human networks to better achieve their goals.
“If you are an online gaming business or a finance-related business, you couldn’t find a better place to start your new business in Gibraltar and get connected to the local business community. Gibraltar continues to be an extremely attractive and safe port for international businesses.”
Jarvis concluded: “WTC is the premium corporate address in Gibraltar. It has great accessibility (to town and the airport/border with Spain), and it sends the right message to business clients and partners. It is a high- quality and inspiring environment to work in.”