Gibraltar Regulator Gains Powers Under New Regime

July 3, 2024
Gibraltar’s planned gambling law update would regulate individuals and give the Gambling Commissioner new powers to fine licensees for violations.

Gibraltar’s planned gambling law update would regulate individuals and give the Gambling Commissioner new powers to fine licensees for violations.

Under current legislation, powers are somewhat “draconian”, that is, the choice is between suspending a licence or not suspending one, leaving little room for a lesser punishment, said Peter Isola of ISOLAS law firm, and a former director of Entain and BetVictor.

Currently, the Gibraltar regulator’s power to fine is largely limited to anti-money laundering (AML) violations, according to commissioner Andrew Lyman.

For example, last August, evoke (formerly 888 Holdings) agreed to pay £2.9m in a settlement linked to AML failings involving VIP gamblers in the Middle East, a matter over which the company had previously paid £9.4m to the UK’s Gambling Commission for similar infractions.

Nigel Feetham, minister for justice, trade and industry, promised a new bill to be published shortly and enacted early next year would bring an “accessible and pragmatic” gambling regime, including new powers to fine.

The territory has 47 licensees, including Betfred, Lottoland, Sportradar, bet365 and IGT.

Regulated persons will include the chief executive, chief financial officer and head of regulatory compliance.

The comments came at last week’s Gibraltar eSummit, sponsored by KPMG.

Gibraltar was rocked by Brexit, as the 2016 vote took it out of the European Union with the UK in January 2020, costing its licensees claims of access to the EU and creating a deluge of border problems.

But its appeal to UK-focused online gambling operators remains, with 72 percent of its business targeting the UK, the minister said.

Still, the territory is looking to attract licensees in emerging markets and the rest of the world, he said.

But, Feetham claimed, "we are not involved in a race to the bottom with any emerging jurisdictions".  

Gibraltar would expect its licensees to operate on a "dual regime basis", that is, if a local licence is needed in a particular jurisdiction, the licensee should get one, he said.

In recent months, jurisdictions hoping to tempt online gambling licensees as Curaçao regulates have emerged in spots as far-flung as Anjouan, East Timor and Tobique.

“I don’t fear some of the new jurisdictions — I won’t name them — that are offering licences without offering regulated structures around those licences,” Lyman said, speaking as part of a panel of regulators from Jersey and Isle of Man, as well as Gibraltar.

“Someone could copy and paste regulations from another jurisdiction,” said David McLeish of London-based Wiggin law firm, speaking during a break.

But “you go there, and there’s no track record”, he said. “It’s a question of expertise and resources. Expertise is finite; there’s not a huge amount of it around.”

In contrast, Gibraltar, Isle of Man and Jersey are a cut or two above the new would-be online gambling regulators, he said.

“They have rules which they expect to be followed, and there are consequences for not following the rules,” he said.

Also during a break, Lyman said Gibraltar has “got an appetite for emerging markets where operators determine there’s a legal basis” for targeting players.

Gibraltar does not prescribe what markets its licensees should target, but “we don’t see ourselves as a jurisdiction that supports the black market in any way”, he said.

For example, a number of Gibraltar licensees currently operate in Brazil, but when Brazil launches its licensing programme, licensees should get a Brazilian licence to continue there, he said.

Likewise, “if I found a company in our jurisdiction targeting the Dutch market [without a licence], I would take steps to stop that”, he said.

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