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Gibraltar Gaming Firms Brace For Brexit Impact
The Rock of Gibraltar, a tiny dot of British territory near Spain, is home to The Vault, dug out of stone by U.K. soldiers during the second World War. Today it serves as home base for several online gambling websites. Access to the 500 million citizens in the European Union and low taxes draw them to the Rock.
Now the exit of the U.K. from the European Union–Brexit–may threaten this gambling website haven, which employs nearly 3,000 people and is responsible for an estimated 40% of Gibraltar’s corporate tax revenues and approximately 25% of the territory’s income. Gibraltar’s uncertain tax status may make other European refugees of low taxes, such as Malta, appealing locales to move to.
To be clear, no online gambling company has yet committed publicly to leaving The Vault. Still, British Prime Minister Theresa May formally initiated the 2-year Brexit withdrawal process in March 2017. Executives of 888, one of the world’s largest online gambling websites, have mentioned the possibility of relocating to a more amenable country should Brexit affect Gibraltar’s tax situation or the regulation of online gambling significantly. Ladbrokes Coral Group and William Hill representatives have made similar statements.
The Mediterranean island nation of Malta is already a favorite of some online gambling institutions due to its tax-friendly environment. Like Gibraltar, Malta sees a significant portion of its taxes revenues and its employment numbers from the online gambling industry.
Many of the workers employed by the best online casinos houses in Gibraltar are commuters from Spain. They’re carefully watching the Spanish government for signs that Brexit could affect the way they cross the border to work.
Gibraltar’s government has long been public about its support for the European Union. Its official website still touts EU membership as a reason to relocate the business to the tiny British colony, even as Brexit looms. The citizens of Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU when the U.K. held its Brexit referendum in June 2016.
Gambling Commissioner Phill Brear has said the Gibraltar government is making contingency plans for post-Brexit developments. Brear noted the trend among online gambling companies for obtaining dual Gibraltar and Malta licensing. He also cited the fact that such businesses will continue to have access to clients in the United Kingdom, even after U.K. leaves the European Union.
It remains to be seen what effects Brexit will have on the online gambling industry and the economy of Gibraltar. Gambling firms and the Gibraltar government alike are making their preparations now.