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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Online Gambling
Posted: December 23, 2021 at 10:10 pm
An end-of-year data report by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), in partnership with H2 Gambling Capital, has stated that Europes total gambling revenue is set to increase by 7.5% to 87.2bn ($98.5bn) in 2021. This includes a 19% growth in the online market. Overall, however, gambling revenue is down by 13% when compared to 2019 as restrictions to land-based gambling remain due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report predicts Europes online gambling revenue will increase by 19% this year to 36.4bn ($41.1bn) which is in stark contrast to the recent decline in land-based gambling revenue, down by a significant 32% in comparison to 2019.
The growth in online gambling in Europe is expected to experience an acceleration due to the pandemic, with online gross gaming revenue is predicted to grow by 9% each year, reaching a peak of 41% by 2026. Another trend that is expecting a development in popularity is that of mobile usage for online gambling, with the share of bets from mobile devices this year set to account for a majority of Europes online bets for the first time ever. Its expected that the use of mobile devices will reach 61.5% of all online bets by 2026.
The growth trend of Europes online gambling market continues but there remains significant room for online development in markets, such as France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, where the online share of the total gambling market is still relatively low despite the online markets in these countries being relatively mature.
"With continued online growth also comes the responsibility to ensure the online market is well-regulated and operators continue to utilise the latest online technologies to promote a stronger culture of safer gambling, said Maarten Haijer, Secretary General, EGBA.
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Posted: at 10:10 pm
Hollywood, and in more recent times Bollywood, has been a huge influence on popular culture since the first movies were released. The more popular the film, the greater the impact it has, and that impact stretches over many spheres -- music, fashion, social mores, food, pastimes, and hobbies, to list a few. Movies can define those things that are considered fashionable and those that are not.
Photo credit: Pixabay
The gambling industry has gained much from the influence of Hollywood. The Cincinnati Kid, released in 1965, started the trend, and this trend has continued over the years up to the film 21 that cemented that influence. This trend has intrigued people and drawn them into online casinos such as Casumo, one of the best UK online casinos.
Gambling is one of the cultural spheres that has been positively affected by Hollywood, but the reverse also happens. The advent of online gaming and sportsbooks has prompted writers to include this pastime in the movies.
The Leading Man
Gambling movies tend to be stereotypical, and irrespective of the genre, they are often male-driven films. They portray their heroes as charismatic people that others want to emulate, and the inference is that the easiest way to do this is to visit a casino, win big, and walk out with the lady.
Major stars such as Matt Damon, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt have been known to lead the cast and come across with roguish charm that makes their illegal activities seem harmless. These characters are always portrayed as skilled gamblers who know how to play the house and win big.
For impressionable viewers, this type of character is irresistible and often emulated.
The Leading Lady
In the 1949 movie "The Lady Gambles," Barbara Stanwyck grittily portrayed a woman addicted to gambling and the heartbreak that follows. This was a realistic portrayal of the effects of gambling addiction.
In more recent films, the female characters have moved into the realm of supporting the male leads, but with some key attributes.
Kate Bosworth plays a pivotal role in the teen gambling movie "21" as one of the students who plays blackjack. Not only does she have a vital role while the team is gambling, but she also is the voice of reason, trying to keep everyone grounded.
Sharon Stone's portrayal of Ginger in Casino earned her an Oscar nomination. Again this was a secondary role but a pivotal character to the entire story.
Bosworth and Stone, along with Julia Roberts as Tess in Oceans 11 and Eva Green as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, have essential roles that highlight why the main male characters do what they do, but none truly reflect the reality of the pain that gambling addiction brings.
Alongside the alluring leading man, there is the image that winning in a casino is a simple task. A script about a prudent or cautious gambler would dismally flop as gambling is inherently risky, so a script where the hero goes all in and often wins is a must. A person with no experience in playing the tables is led to believe that winning is easy, especially in slots, blackjack, and roulette.
From the movie scenes, most viewers do not perceive that the games are weighted in favor of the house, and big wins are few and far between. Winning is not impossible -- the player will always have a chance to win if they play at a reputable casino, either in person or online.
An added problem when playing online is that there are no physical chips that the player can watch dwindle, bringing home the losses. Looking at a screen removes the player from the reality of loss and makes gambling feel more like playing a game. This dangerous concept can lead to huge losses.
Win by Beating the System
Many gambling movies have a theme where the leading character has found some loophole or has devised some system that results in them winning big at a casino. This contributes to the audience believing that they can design a similar system or find a similar loophole and also win big at a casino.
Movies tend to take this idea to extremes, such as when playing craps, which is based solely on luck. Players are often portrayed as having the ability to throw the dice to bring up the numbers they need. This is blatantly untrue, but gullible viewers will think they can be successful with practice; in reality, that will never happen.
This issue is made more ridiculous when players play online, which makes this kind of emulation utterly impossible, as you cannot count cards in blackjack with a digital dealer, and having a poker face doesn't help against a computer screen.
Rise of Sportsbooks
Betting on the outcome of sporting events is as old as time. As far back as 1974, with the release of The Gambler, starring James Caan, where betting on basketball leads to the downfall of the leading man, sports betting has been a popular theme for movies.
Let It Ride, released in 1989, is the fairy tale story of a perpetual loser who goes to the racetrack one day and wins everything in sight. Though a comedy, it plants a seed that perhaps this is possible? Possible, yes; probable, no!
With the advent of online gambling in 1996, betting on sporting events became even more popular. Armchair critics got a simple outlet to allow them to bet on their favorite teams or sports, and there was no need to find a physical bricks-and-mortar betting shop. Add to this welcome bonuses, favorable odds, free bets, and other offers, and gamblers were in wagering heaven.
Hollywood Portrays Gambling as a Harmless Pastime
Gambling is portrayed as harmless entertainment in many films. After all, no one gets injured while sitting at a table, and the glamor that Hollywood has woven around this pastime has contributed to the rise in the popularity of gambling. Most of the wired world has access to both streaming films and online gambling, so the influence of one is easily felt by the other.
Movies are an essential part of the lives of the majority of the world's population, and their influence on popular culture is well documented. Therefore, it is not surprising that the popularity of gambling, the games that are offered, and the belief that beating the house is possible are part of our culture. Since movies started being made, gambling has been featured, even if it is not the movie's main theme. This helps portray gambling as just something that everyone does.
Posted: at 10:10 pm
Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), the gambling regulator in the Netherlands, warned one of its incumbents for violation of the whistle-to-whistle ban on betting advertising.
The warning issued to Holland Casino by the KSA was for promoting betting ads online via the Eredivisie.nl website while soccer matches were still in play. The KSA acted on information provided to the regulator and investigated the matter itself.
The information provided to the KSA claimed that Eredivisie.nl promoted betting ads during various soccer matches with links integrated into the odds that direct the viewer to Holland Casinos website where in-play bets can be placed on those matches. KSAs investigation which took place over the weekend found out the information was right.
According to the new online gambling regime in the country, gambling operators are prohibited from advertising their products on sports competitions before, during, or immediately after the matches, including at half-time or during any other breaks, with the idea to protect casual viewers or those checking the results from placing impulsive bets. Unlike in the UK, the Dutch ban on gambling advertising extends to the online gambling space.
Based on the findings, the KSA issued a reprimand to Holland Casino for its violations of the gambling advertising ban and ordered the operator to cease this practice. Further checks which took place over the latest round of Eredivisie matches this week found out that Holland Casino had heeded the warning and stopped the promotional ads, the KSA added.
Holland Casino, a state-run gambling company, was practically the only legalized gambling operator prior to the launch of the new online gambling marketspace on October 1, 2021, as well as among the first to receive a license to operate under the new regime, the KOA Act.
Since the launch of the new online gambling regime, the KSA has been busy dealing with a wide range of issues such as gambling addiction, illegal operators, self-exclusion registration of players, and others.
Immediately after the new regulation launch, the KSA opened public consultations on how to utilize operator player data to tackle problem gambling and gambling addiction, seeking insight from operators and other industry stakeholders.
Earlier this month, the regulator undertook fresh action towards tackling gambling addiction by hiring three new gambling addiction advisors for the national gambling self-exclusion registry Centraal Register Uitsluiting Kansspelen (CRUKS) and then followed on to warn operators that any incorrect player data entered in the register was affecting the systems effectiveness, asking them to carry out more detailed checks on of some of their players.
Also in December, the KSA turned to all players in the country who were still playing online via an unlicensed operator, warning them that they are strongly advised to switch to one of the licensed companies or risk becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud.
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Posted: at 10:10 pm
During the winter session of Parliament, Bharatiya Janata Party member Sushil Kumar Modi urged the government to come up with a comprehensive framework" to regulate online gaming. While this may seem progressive, he made the case for regulation by conflating legal online gaming with illegal betting and gambling. Unfortunately, online gaming is grossly misunderstood, even though India is home to over 275 gaming companies, more than 15,000 game developers, and around 300 million gamers. Even technology hubs like Karnataka and Telangana have inadvertently stymied their own industry on the back of calls for bans on betting and gambling. Its time to delink the good, bad and the ugly.
Lets start in reverse order, with the ugly. The Centre must first identify and target the real sites of illegal betting and gambling. For instance, illegal sports betting websites do swift business in India. In 2015, the International Centre for Sports Security estimated the illegal betting and gambling market in India to be worth $150 billion (in gross terms). Most of this is betting on cricket matches, done through websites like Betaway, Bet365 and DafaBet, which are headquartered in tax havens like Malta, Cyprus and Gibraltar but are accessible to Indian users. In October, the Tamil Nadu police busted an online betting racket in Kallakurichi, where the mastermind had taken commissions from the Russian owners of a betting platform called 1XBet to rope in more people to place bets on this mobile app. Earlier in June, the Delhi Police arrested a man for running an online betting racket online and seized around $400,000 in cash.
Offshore gambling websites have also often been used for money laundering. In a 2021 report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that up to $2 trillion is laundered globally through these portals each year, equal to about 5% of global output. In India, third-party wallets like Skrill and Neteller are used to funnel money into gambling sites. Users deposit money from their bank accounts into these prepaid wallets, which can be used to make payments anonymously. Accepting deposits in Indian rupees through various channels indicates an intent on the part of these sites to offer betting services in India despite their illegality. The Centre can take steps to block such sites under Section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act. Stringent measures are also required to prevent illegal services being advertised or promoted through direct or surrogate means online. Rule 3(1)(b) of the IT Rules, 2021 prohibits intermediaries from posting or hosting content that encourages gambling or money laundering, but rules to penalize such advertisements need to be extended to the entire online ecosystem.
Second, states have the power to tackle betting and gambling and they must enhance their law-enforcement capacity to do so. Since the blocking of illegal websites lies in the Centres jurisdiction, states may emulate the Maharashtra Polices model to deal with digital piracy. The Maharashtra Cyber Digital Crime United (MCDCU), formed in 2017, works with media and entertainment businesses to identify and take down websites engaged in the dissemination of pirated content. The MCDCU has facilitated the suspension of over 350 such portals, in concert with the central government. States can undertake a similar exercise against illegal betting websites, with support from the gaming industry. Moreover, consumer interest groups should be roped into anti-gambling efforts, to spread awareness and provide forums to report illegal platforms.
Finally, the Centre should accelerate its work on an overarching regulatory framework for online games of skill. Various high courts have legitimized such game formats. Rulings like Varun Gumber vs Chandigarh (Punjab & Haryana High Court), Gurdeep Singh Sachar vs Union of India (Bombay High Court) and Avinash Mehrotra vs Rajasthan (Supreme Court) have found fantasy sports of a predominant format to be games of skill. In the Junglee Games case, the Madras High Court ruled that games like Poker and Rummy are games of skill. India must move beyond skill-versus-chance debates to keep up with the global gaming industry. Advanced jurisdictions have mostly taken a hands-off approach towards skill-based games. Beyond determining a games skill or chance-based nature, the UK exempts skill games from licensing requirements that apply to games of chance. Likewise, the USs Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act carves out a safe harbour for fantasy sports.
A legal codification of judicial rulings, along with a nuanced classification of different types of online games, could enable targeted and risk-based rule-making. Such a framework will offer clarity and separate skill-based games from gambling. Hearteningly, there is some recognition of the value of skill-based gaming. Ashwini Vaishnav, Union minister of electronics and information technology, had signalled the Centres intent to impose uniform regulation for online gaming in a letter this year to Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. This is welcome appreciation of the fact that online games have come of age and represent the best of both Digital India and Make in India.
Vivan Sharan and Akshat Agarwal are technology policy experts at the Koan Advisory Group, New Delhi. These are the authors personal views
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Posted: at 10:10 pm
An online gambling firm that contacted older people and persuaded them to bet tens of thousands of pounds on lottery results is to escape sanctions, despite a damning regulatory investigation into its practices.
IMME Ltd, which is based in the Isle of Man and trades as Lotteries.com and The Lottery Centre, committed extensive breaches of its gambling licence, according to the Gambling Commission.
The firms sales agents, who used fake names on the phone, disproportionately targeted older people, it said, with 75% of customers aged 60 to 79 and 20% 80 or older.
One customer, who was 100 when the commission began its review, bet 23,839 in just five months without IMME inquiring about his source of funds. The company knew two of its top depositors were retired postal workers but allowed one to bet 20,345 in five months and the other 16,207 in six months.
According to the report, staff members appeared to have no access to customers records, meaning they could not carry out responsible gambling checks. The company held no records of its interactions with a 78-year-old customer who spent 63,951 in just over three months.
The Gambling Commissions review also found multiple failings in the way the company marketed its services.
The Lotteries.com website is no longer active in the UK but an archived version displays logos for national lotteries around the world and refers to record-breaking jackpots. However, the company was not in fact offering the chance to enter lotteries, only the opportunity to bet on their outcome. This was not made clear, the review found.
In addition, the website claimed that when customers were betting on a lottery, they were also contributing to underlying good causes. This was not the case.
IMME drummed up business by repeatedly telephoning older people, the review found.
One woman in her 90s was called several times a week, while another was called every 30-40 minutes until the phone was answered.
IMME does not have a website and its two main brands are no longer accessible from the UK.
Documents filed with the Isle of Man companies registry in September 2020 name Gloria Jean Evans, a Canadian, as its director, with an address in the islands capital, Douglas. Its finance director was named as Paul Michael Whelan, an Irish national based in Hertfordshire.
Both Evans and Whelan have surrendered personal licences to run a gambling business, according to Gambling Commission records.
A spokesperson for IMME said the regulator had not acknowledged that many of the failings were legacy issues that had been addressed, including via investment in compliance.
IMME ensures that every player is telephoned as soon as they spend 160 and every player is assigned a customer care agent who monitored their play, it said. Additionally, all players over 70 years of age received a social interaction call after every sale regardless of size.
The company said it would return any customer funds it still held and had run an extensive effort to do so since September. It added that it had decided to withdraw from licensed gambling in the UK.
IMMEs licence to operate was suspended in March 2020 and the Gambling Commission said it would have been revoked had the company not surrendered it, adding that the company had failed to cooperate with the investigation.
Because IMME and its senior staff surrendered their licences, the Gambling Commission can take no further action against them.
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Matt Zarb-Cousin, the director of campaign group Clean Up Gambling, said the case underlined the regulators lack of resources, particularly since it took on responsibility for monitoring offshore-owned entities in 2014.
Wholly inadequate due diligence around that time has left the regulator playing catchup, while being under-resourced, he said. It should have the capacity to review every single licensee to ensure these practices are not repeated.
A review of gambling regulation will consider a possible significant increase in funding for the commission.
Helen Venn, the executive director of the Gambling Commission, said: There is no room in Britains gambling industry for operators who fail in the way IMME have.
The regulator said the company was still running a lottery ticket syndicate business, which it does not require a Gambling Commission licence to do.
Posted: December 19, 2021 at 6:59 pm
The online casino industry has demonstrated significant growth in the last year, with game developers using technological upgrades to grab the players attention. This large-scale rise in the popularity of digital casino platforms started with 2020s lockdown and the market has continued booming ever since.
With operators striving to update and improve online casino games using technology, experts are projecting that internet-based gambling will be worth over $565 by 2022. Here are several trends that many gambling experts believe will transform online games in 2022.
1. Updated Regulations For Online Casinos
The growing popularity of online casinos doesnt come without regulatory authorities. Thats because financial crimes like terrorist financing, fraud, and money laundering tend to happen whenever cash is involved.
Even when casinos and gamblers are regulated by authorities like financial institutions and banks, the gambling industry lacks enough measures to completely avoid money laundering. That became evident in 2021 when several cases of money laundering made casinos lose large sums of cash. That includes reports that a billion dollars are laundered through Australian clubs every year.
In light of the current situation of such financial crimes in the casino industry, 2022 will bring in more stringent measures that help avoid such activities. These strict regulations will ensure that online gambling operators will implement the necessary measures to restrict such illegal activities by verifying the players identities.
2. Mobile Betting on the Rise
While the online gambling market has gained significant prominence today, there is still more to uncover. Social and mobile gambling is among the greatest contributors to this success, thanks to the increased usage of mobile phones. The increased usage of smartphones has helped online casino operators penetrate new markets and get more revenue through paid advertisements put in different social games.
Mobile gambling app developers are ramping up their efforts in improving the players experience, hoping to rise above their competitors. 2021 has already seen improved visuals perform perfectly with astonishing screen resolutions created by smartphone giants and more is coming. In 2022, these visual quality enhancements are expected to improve further, as game developers aim to offer the best gambling experience while catering to the rising demands from players.
3. Hybrid Casino Experiences through Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence
Although virtual reality isnt a new concept, its proving to be a game-changer in the casino industry. The enhanced technology incorporated in virtual reality gambling applications is creating a more interactive gambling experience for online players. The increasing number of virtual reality devices readily available in the market is also inspiring operators to capitalize on the technology as its appealing to players.
VR offers a realistic gambling environment to help players feel like theyre playing in a real casino, although theyre betting from home. As such, gambling application providers like Microgaming, NetEnt, and NextGen have started offering VR-based casino games.
Besides the use of virtual reality technology, the online casino industry will be improved further by incorporating artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence gives online gambling operators trend-based customer service and enhanced data analytics. It also enhances the security of online platforms by detecting fraudulent activities.
4. Smartwatch-based Gambling Apps
While smartphones and laptops might seem like the only options to conveniently play your favorite casino games, gambling services are now available through smartwatches. In 2022, the smartwatch market is expected to hit $140 million from $71 million in 2021, with online casino game developers expected to take advantage of this growth. This wearable technology will transform how online casino gaming works.
With gaming providers like Playtech and Microgaming already offering casino applications for smartwatches, the market is set to witness massive growth. More developers are also expected to create more smartwatch-compatible games in 2022, as casino operators strive to offer fast, efficient, and more convenient gambling activities.
5. Blockchain Technology
Recently, many blockchain-based projects have shown a high level of capitalization in various markets. Applied in the gambling industry, the technology offers the users and online casino operators, helping to shape the future of the betting market. Some of the benefits that blockchain technology offers include:
Gamblers can play casino games anonymously using digital money while wagering in online casinos. Some casinos even allow players to wager on giving without their personal details when creating gambling accounts.
The transactions are handled promptly, allowing players to replenish their wagering accounts within seconds using digital funds.
Blockchain technology enhances the security and transparency of online casinos as all the transactions are encrypted from one end to the other and they cant be changed, manipulated, or edited.
With every online casino operator aiming to draw more players to their games, you can expect to see various trends and technologies dominating the market in 2022. However, with fraud and money laundering issues on the rise, the regulatory authorities will impose more stringent rules to protect every stakeholder. Nonetheless, the online gambling market will keep growing to reach $565 in 2022.
Winners and Spartan Casino to implement blockchain-based ecosystem in online gambling – Gambling Insider
Posted: at 6:59 pm
Winners, a subsidiary of VegasWinners, provider of content, analysis, research and guidance, has announced an agreement with blockchain-based online casino and sportsbook, Titan Corp, Spartan Casino.
Spartan Casino has plans for a new casino model that intends to implement a blockchain-based ecosystem within the online gambling industry. This will allow for the incorporation of its own style of smart contracts and customised live dealer games to meet online gambling requirements.
Its ultimate goal in this joint venture is to decentralise the current system, removing risk and creating a transparent, more trustworthy method of play for everyone involved.
Wayne Allyn Root, CEO of VegasWinners will take on the role of Spokesperson and Brand Ambassador of Spartan Casino and Spartan Casinos online gaming products. He will also act as a member of the Spartan Casinos Advisory Board.
Kavita S. Naithaani, Titan Corp CEO, said: "We are very excited to onboard Wayne Allyn Root as our Brand Ambassador. We are confident that his knowledge and experience in the gaming industry and his versatile background will take this Partnership to a new level. Welcome, Wayne."
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Posted: December 17, 2021 at 10:38 am
Dec 16, 2021, 05:28 PM EST
After years of watching neighboring New Jersey rack up millions of dollars in tax revenue many of which came from New York residents crossing the border from online sports betting and iGaming, New York finally legalized online gambling and should launch soon.
The question residents and travelers alike are wondering: When? Whats the date users will be able to sign up, deposit, and bet from the comfort of their NY homes?
The answer: Things are still up in the air, although New York State Senator Joe Addabbo has said this fall that the goal is to have legal online betting prior to the Super Bowl on February 13, 2022.
With the NFL playoffs beginning in January, the state and operators alike are highly incentivized to get live as soon as possible to start accumulating tax revenue. All in all, we expect adults in New York to be able to place bets sometime in January or early February.
It was unclear until just a few months ago which operators would be given licenses in New York. Several groups put together proposals or bids, of which NY regulators chose two, giving out a total of nine licenses. The winning sportsbooks will be allowed to operate for the next 10 years.
The operators approved for online access are as follows:
Of note, Rush Street is the parent company of both BetRivers and SugarHouse, which operate collectively in 10-plus states currently.
Some notable absences include Penn National, including Barstool Sportsbook, as well as some of the European operator powerhouses like Unibet and bet365. More sportsbooks could be added down the road, but its unclear on the timeline or which operators are next in line to get approved.
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Posted: at 10:38 am
SLIEMA, Malta Its a Friday night at one of Maltas larger upscale hotels in a fishing village turned sprawling town called St. Julians, and in the ballroom on the lower ground floor a woman in a silver dress is performing a not-quite-acoustic set, seated beside a guitarist whose long, dark hair is pinned back by a pair of sunglasses.
So good, so good, she sings. Ive got you. Before her are two dozen tables of wine bottles, tuxedos, and dresses. Most of the male guests appear middle-aged and some are mildly intoxicated, while the women present are mostly younger. A large advert at the side of the stage proclaims that a digital consultancy called MYC will ensure that your business images are distinctive, bold and respected. We can be extraordinary, together, it adds, helpfully.
In the foyer outside, another tall display features the name of a group established by the Maltese government and the countrys gambling regulator to promote the island as a destination for businesses that develop, market, operate and profit from online gambling websites and apps. In front of that, a small strip of red carpet has been unrolled, where a photographer waits, lights raised high on stands, to capture the departing guests.
Four older men in jackets, all clutching awards, surround a woman in a dark top. The event photographer snaps several formal group shots, then grabs a spotlight in one hand and, with the other, rattles off a short series of photos on proffered smartphones. There are high-fives and backslaps, and a young British guy in a grey jacket enters stage right, shouting I won it to a possible acquaintance with a beard and a large disc earring, before walking on and quickly pulling out his phone, suddenly oblivious to the surrounding melee of hugs, squeals and whoops.
The evenings Malta iGaming Excellence Awards had recognised excellence in a variety of categories, including top software platform provider for web-based betting and online gambling CEO deemed best most effective, friendliest, or whatever, its unclear. The Intercontinental St. Julians may not quite rival Los Angeles Dolby Theatre, the traditional venue for the Academy Awards, but Malta has in recent years become to online gambling what Hollywood has been to the movie industry, drawing entrepreneurs and executives from across the European continent to this sun-blasted island. The EUs smallest member state is home to one of the worlds greatest gambling booms since 1960s Vegas.
Someone who has enjoyed a front-row seat to Maltas blockbuster growth is Emanuel Eman Pulis, a club promoter turned conference planner, whose own career transition mirrors the transformation of the St. Julians neighbourhood that he describes fondly as a former mecca for nightlife, clubs, bars. Its early afternoon and outside the temperature has just spiked to 30 degrees Celsius, as he offers a fist-bump before heading into his frigid conference room. He takes a seat under the fluorescent lights, his tan contrasting with the white piping on the collar of his dark blue Ralph Lauren polo shirt.
I used to be a party organiser, he says. I ditched that because I realised the only people who were spending money buying bottles at my parties were the gaming crowd. His attachment to the dance party life ended conclusively during the summer of 2012, at an enormous house music event inside a venue called Amazonia. About 7,000 tourists and locals were enjoying a set from headliners Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, the half-Greek, half-Belgian fraternal DJ act thats collaborated with artists ranging from Wiz Khalifa to Paris Hilton. In the partygoers midst an elevated area served as the VIP bubble, which Pulis realised was full of Swedish, Norwegian, Scandinavian, great-looking people having a great time, he recalls, smiling. They were having fun on their own, spending a tonne of cash. And I realised I needed to be in that bubble. He pauses, tucking his long, well-conditioned hair behind his ears, drawing attention to several small scars on the side of his left eye. Why waste time bringing 10,000 people to my party when I can just focus on these few 100 people? he says with a smile.
The free-spending swarm of Scandinavians and other Northern Europeans had been drawn to Malta by an online gambling law passed several years earlier that provided the fledgling industry with legal protections and operating rules, which did not yet really exist anywhere else. You can come to Malta, Pulis says, summarising the official message from local authorities at the time, and have the peace of mind that we're not going to arrest you next day because you're operating illegally.
Since then, tens of thousands of coders, marketers, game designers and gambling fanatics have settled in a handful of neighbourhoods that extend north along a series of coastal inlets from the capital Valletta, with names like Ta Xbiex, Sliema, St. Julians, Paceville and Pembroke reflecting the islands unique history of Arabic, Catholic, and British influences. And that vast workforce in this chain of former villages has helped create what many of the gambling executives VICE World News spoke to inside and outside Malta described as a formidable ecosystem that they hope will secure the islands place as a longtime constant in the world of online betting. The exponential growth that derives from this kind of congregated talent and expertise is what business strategists like to call a cluster effect.
And while gambling revenues have undoubtedly boosted the countrys tax revenues, their consequences are often most visible in concrete. Lots of it. Pulis now runs well-attended annual conferences centred on internet gambling that depend on industry participants from around the world travelling to Malta, but hes also not blind to the local economys extraordinary transformation over the past two decades. It did change the landscape of the Maltese islands, he says of the new nexus. Restaurants don't struggle anymore, and the real estate market shot up, especially in certain areas.
Sandwiched between two small bays named for figures of Catholic devotion, St. Julians and nearby St. Georges, the Portomaso marina development includes a subterranean casino that has hosted European poker tournaments and live events for some of the worlds largest gambling operators. It was one of several luxury projects thrown up to cater to Maltas burgeoning expat population, and the family behind it has ridden the islands boom to become one of Maltas wealthiest. That makes sense when high-end real estate agent Trevor Gauci Maistre starts describing the increases to the areas sale and rental prices, while sitting at the edge of the sprawling Portomaso estate, outside an elegant cafe. Its all tidy palm trees and high-priced espresso, and its named for the two owners, who made appearances in offshore leaks known as the Panama Papers.
Maistre is charming and candid about his success over the past 20 years in the explosive commercial property sector, attributing it to sometimes hard work, but also the right place, right time. He closes around six or seven deals a month and three-quarters of the rental market is iGaming. He says that in one five-year period, an internet gaming company he worked with went from spending 6,000 (about 5,000) a year on its office lease to 200,000 (about 168,000). In the Sliema neighbourhood, a promontory just down the coast, some prime commercial building rents have almost quadrupled, from 160 (about 135) to 600 (about 500) a square metre. And for those looking to buy high-spec homes, the values of most nearby residential properties have doubled, even tripled since 2015, Maistre says. Inside the complex looming over the estate, a large three-bedroom penthouse apartment with a sea view might have been worth 200,000 15 years ago but will now sell for 10 times that amount.
At a new office building nearby, one of his clients a Swedish-owned gambling firm rents a floor with dozens of desks in several rows, and large windows at one end. Its Malta-based workforce totals 150, half of them local citizens and 32 other nationalities among the rest. There are hundreds of millions of rules in Sweden, says Marie Theobald, the companys Maltese head of HR, explaining why so much of the operation is here. Its not worth it for a company of our size. She sounds confident her own firm remains committed to the island, but expresses concern about the potential for public corruption in her homeland. Companies are not as tied down in Malta as they used to be, she acknowledges, for the reasons that first attracted such firms, like minimal taxes and low wages. She pauses and casts around for other explanations for their continued presence, and comes up with good schools and flight connections. Besides that, the weather?
Robert de Marco is the companys chief financial officer, a relaxed older man whom Theobald jokes is the office grandfather, since hes twice the age of many of the younger game designers. Leaning in a doorway between the open-plan space and a well-appointed kitchen area, he laughs at the evolution of the industry. During his first trip to a big internet gambling confab in London many years ago, it was guys in ponytails and tattoos, he remembers. Now its all suits.
Few participants in the iGaming industry lament that shift, but the easy money in Malta has had a broader impact on its reputation, says Alexandre Tomic, founder and chief executive of a gambling provider called Alea. Raised in France of Serbian heritage, he had planned to travel to Malta for a conference this summer. But COVID-19 kept him at home in Barcelona, where on a video call he runs through several notable instances of malfeasance involving the islands financial sector.
In the volatile period that followed Libyas uprising and the death of Muammar Gaddafi, European investigators reported Maltese authorities had done very little to determine the origins of more than a quarter of a billion euros in cash that arrived on the island during 2013, of which they found substantial amounts were used to buy yachts and properties. More recently, prosecutors in Sicily and southern Italy have repeatedly linked arrested individuals to gambling-business licences in Malta several of which were subsequently revoked.
And then there was the closure in late 2018 of Bulgarias Satabanks Maltese operations. The islands financial regulator took unprecedented action to shutter the institution, with an extraordinary directive that insisted the bank could no longer welcome new customers, take fresh deposits, or process withdrawals. Assets were seized, paperwork forensically examined, and an independent auditor placed in charge of all operations, after investigators identified that safeguards designed to prevent terrorism financing or criminal financial chicanery at the bank were lax and at times inexistent. The European Central Bank eventually withdrew the Bulgarian-owned banks licence in mid-2020, and while under the control of auditors it was late last year forced to pay hundreds of thousands of euros in fines to Maltas financial regulator.
But perhaps a greater challenge to operators in Malta, Tomic explained, will happen away from the island, with the introduction of gambling regulations in countries like Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, where until relatively recently Malta-approved firms could legally target customers. The island hosts and licenses dozens of businesses that operate online casinos and sports betting sites marketed to gamblers all over the world, known as B2C (business to consumer) firms. But there are also hundreds of licensed ancillary suppliers like game providers, platform providers and payment providers that are contracted by those operators, known as B2B (business to business) companies. Tomic argues the larger B2C companies wont stay much longer in Malta, since it no longer offers the low cost of living and correspondingly low wages of a decade ago, and will instead move portions of their workforce closer to their consumers, to newly regulated countries like Germany or Sweden. Who's going to stay in Malta? He asks rhetorically of B2C businesses, before answering his own question. The dodgy ones who are going to try and address unregulated markets.
Those unregulated markets include countries like Brazil and Argentina, where there are no laws on the statute books that govern online gambling, at least for now. But at least half a dozen people with a professional interest in Maltas online gambling sector acknowledged that more and more developing countries will eventually introduce iGaming regulation. This would hamper companies licensed in Malta from targeting their citizens legally, limit the number of accessible players, and thereby reduce the benefits of holding a Malta gaming licence. And that could mean, argues Tomic, that Malta becomes simply a back-office hub for internet gambling, with its low taxes offering some measure of protection for the profits of B2B companies.
His own business, Alea, allows online casinos to access thousands of prefabricated games through its portal, and he insists its location in cosmopolitan Barcelona is an attractive consideration for would-be employees. The workforce hes previously encountered in Malta was under-motivated lazy was the word he used with young employees of the larger firms drawn by the beaches, parties and corporate perks. They move from one company to another without learning anything, he says, calling it an industry of spoiled kids who were earning an insane amount of money.
His Norwegian friend, Tobias Svensen, turns 30 this year, and as one of the youngest gambling CEOs on the island, he largely agrees with that characterisation of his peer group. Boasting a minor belly and a major beard, hes often bullish about his own prospects, having left a role running a team of 35 telemarketers near Oslo when he answered an online advert for a job in Malta five years ago. Less than five months after he arrived, he was overseeing all Norwegian gamblers on his employers platforms. I actually got promoted into the management group while I was technically still on my probation, he says with a laugh. That's a cool story.
The Bosnian waiter at the steakhouse where Svensen sat greeted him cheerily and, without producing a menu, listed some of the Norwegians preferred dishes, including a generous cut of wagyu beef. Svensen explained that his full-time focus, recording video feeds of internet gamblers to usher interested viewers through to online casinos themselves, had once been merely a side project. He began to use YouTube and Twitch to garner traffic and eyeballs, and these efforts won him enough recognition that he began attending conferences from London to Las Vegas, Amsterdam to Asia, often as a speaker. When I realised that it's a serious and achievable goal to actually end up in my position within years, he continues confidently, I did put a lot of effort into making sure that you network and hang out with the right people. He went to great lengths to stress that the networking opportunity in Malta is amazing.
Its a network that exists, at least in part, thanks to Olga Finkel. Shes a computer scientist from Kharkiv, Ukraine, who long ago moved to Malta for personal reasons she doesnt race to divulge.
Her 60-person law firm was the first to specialise in servicing internet gambling companies in Malta. It has since helped hundreds of businesses apply for, win and, during several regulatory disputes, retain their gaming licences. In a bright orange conference room, she explains her role in designing much of the legislation that governs online gambling in Malta, but she doesnt hesitate to highlight what she considers past deficiencies in its application.
She recalls a time in the mid-2000s when she used to accompany officials from the islands gambling regulator to buildings that hosted her clients gaming servers. Theres all kinds of security cameras everywhere, she remembers noticing, as the designated functionary went around marking individual servers each one had to be located in Malta with numbered stickers, designed to seal them from possible tampering something that now seems absurd. Fifteen years ago, the industry was an unruly, impulsive teenager, she says, suppressing laughter. Now its a responsible adult. Some firms do see their licences revoked by the islands regulator, though are some of the unruly teenagers she mentioned still kicking about? You can't guarantee anything 100%, obviously, Finkel responds. "But by and large, I think it is a very serious regulated industry. These days, with the use of cloud storage and blockchain, there is no cash that they give you across the table, she said of online gaming firms. It's not allowed and it's not possible. Everything is traceable, everything is checked. Any problems with the islands international reputation these days are simply clouds'' that will go away at some point. We just hope, she says, it will happen sooner rather than later.
Outside Finkels building, a few yards from the waterfront, a line of boats glints in the heat from a cloudless sky. Across a small dusty park is a kiosk selling chartered water tours around the capital Valletta, visible in the distance on the right. A striking jumble of sandy-coloured buildings on a peninsula, it was constructed in the 16th century by the Knights Hospitaller, a Christian organisation originally established to help sick pilgrims in the Holy Land, which later grew wealthy plundering foreigners vessels offshore.
Its early afternoon in Siggiewi, a hilltop town in the islands northeast. The houses lining the streets are butter-yellow, with beautifully carved doorways, and shutters drawn they are mostly silent, with only agricultural trucks juddering past and occasionally overwhelming the quiet speech of Robert Aquilina. Hes a public notary but also president of a civil society group called Repubblika, which advocates for greater political transparency in Maltas democracy. Compared to the baking tarmac outside, his office is as cool as his own demeanour, with a long glass-fronted cabinet, traditional tiled floor and a small wooden table.
The discussion focuses on the public corruption that several iGaming executives have by now mentioned, and he is narrating the example of a former attorney general who ultimately resigned. When faced with requests to investigate a Maltese bank for illicit transactions, he had advised senior police officers to act with caution because, as he paraphrased, this could create problems in the country. The banks Iranian founder was later charged by US prosecutors with bank fraud and money-laundering, though he was subsequently acquitted. Aquilina points to another case where the office of Maltas then-chief of gambling regulation had helped prepare documentation on behalf of a casino operator as part of a casino license renewal application. In any other civilised country, that would lead to prosecutions, he says, matter-of-factly, of such collusion. In Malta, there is no interest at all from the police force. Aquilina is not alone in Malta for demanding that people of integrity should apply the islands laws, but it sounds like an often lonely task, given the sense of decay of values in public life that he describes. What wasn't acceptable 10 years ago now is acceptable.
Tal Izhtak Ron is a keen student of the intersection of Maltas gaming sector and its governance. The only thing that we are reading all the time, he tells me from Tel Aviv, "is regarding what's going on with the politics. That is actually, actually, actually just causing damage to the reputation. As the named partner in an Israeli law firm focused on online gaming, with clients across Europe, including Malta, he says none of the criticism should matter. Everybody's praying that Malta will continue being a hub on the B2C operation, Ron says, that banks will continue to work and the money will be continued. And however much reputational damage or competition from other jurisdictions the island faces, he is adamant successful gambling executives and workers, just want to stay in Malta because Malta is like an ecosystem.
Authorities this summer sought to further strengthen that ecosystem, introducing a digital-nomad visa scheme that allows freelancers from outside the EU to work from the island for up to a year, so long as they can prove a sufficient source of income. This should attract more affiliates or affiliate marketers to the island. Theyre another important constituency in the internet gambling world bloggers, influencers or vloggers, like Norwegian video gambling aficionado Svensen who take internet users on their own sites and usher them through the virtual doors of online casinos.
On the Thursday night of a three-day internet gambling conference this summer, as the sun began to set, a seventh-floor rooftop played host to another awards dinner for online slots developers. Nearby was Ivan Filetti, an advertising executive working at Maltas main iGaming trade body, who described several educational programmes that had been created to prepare young Maltese for a job in the gambling sector. Several of the larger firms on the island had established academies or graduate training programs, like large banks on Wall Street or tech giants in Silicon Valley. The Malta College of Arts, Science & Technology meanwhile had signed an agreement with the gambling regulator to offer the countrys 18-year-olds a one-year diploma in iGaming, with classes on data analysis, marketing, SEO, Filetti said. "The cowboys will always exist, he said, unprompted. But they won't last here forever. Moments later the countrys top regulator sat down to the far side of Filetti, in a cream summer jacket without a tie, a reminder once again of the islands small-town feel.
The host, an English woman named Trudy, welcomed the crowd to the awards ceremony, which, she enthused, represents all that is great about online games and casino. The first category was Game Performance Slot Studio Debut and a parade of competing companies logos and game titles whooshed up one by one on a big screen at the back of the stage. A firm called Alchemy Gamings Wheel of Wishes slot emerged as the first winner, and a woman behind that effort clasped her award and a bottle of champagne on stage, thanked the crowd from the mic, then made sure they knew her games payout was "17.5 million presumably in euros. Give it a try.
In a Hollywood twist, the companies that design these games are known as studios, but COVID meant not all studio heads had made it to the event in person. A Swedish executive appeared by pre-recorded video, followed by an Englishman in a white shirt who mumbled his gratitude. A retro-style game called Rainbow Riches Race Day, from a company called SG Digital, was described by the judges as a slot game that really pulls you in, and one they did not want to stop playing, surely a key quality in an industry often criticised for encouraging addiction. Depeche Modes Personal Jesus heralded the winner of best art and design, called Dinopolis, which its designers explain takes players into a world that could have been, had dinosaurs continued to live on. A check revealed the slots were decorated with anthropomorphic dinosaurs dressed like the denizens of Rat Pack-era Vegas.
The crowds applause was faltering slightly by the time a British executive in a red seersucker suit, pink waistcoat, polka-dot handkerchief in his top pocket and blue suede shoes approached the stage for a game called Cherrypop his companys other nominated titles were Tikipop and Hippopop, forming part of an arcade slotscape that sees African chimeras come to life, merging with a kaleidoscope of sculpted totems and mysterious Amazonian landscapes. The Michael Jackson track Smooth Criminal played as a woman handed him his champagne bottle, and at that point just a handful of award categories remained.
Game marketing streamer of the year was one of them. And Svensens firm Casinogrounds was announced as the winner. Svensen sauntered up to the front of the gathered tables before bounding on stage with a massive grin. He thanked the nights party planners for doing a great job and returned to his seat. After the final category was announced, to a huge cheer from the relevant table, all the winners were invited back up on stage for further photographs, cameras flashing from several angles at once. Svensen stood there beaming in the glare, alongside nine women in more glamorous attire than his own white T-shirt, before fist-bumping his fellow winners as they stepped down off the platform. Later on he could be found in conversation with several others. The networking looked amazing.
Posted: at 10:38 am
The internet offers a lot of interesting sources of entertainment for players around the world. Among these are online casinos which work as counterparts of land-based casinos where players can have fun and win at the same time.
With the convenience of online casinos, players are quick to discover that it can be accessed anytime and anywhere. As promising as they may seem, there are some countries that consider gambling as a taboo topic which is why it is still prohibited. As a result, many players are cautious about its legality in several countries.
One of the countries that have several players who are fond of playing slot games Africa is Nigeria. With many players active on the online platform, here is a closer look at the iGaming scene in the country.
Online casinos are widely popular in Nigeria but they are not fully legal in the country since there are still no written laws that are against them. Many players have started to play on online casinos after following the practice of other African countries.
While the Nigerian government has yet to make an official law about the illegality of online gambling, they havent taken any serious actions against those who play. Technically, this lets players freely enjoy sites that allow Nigerian players to play. However, operating an online casino business in the country remains illegal.
The iGaming industry quickly grew with technology that introduced a lot of innovations. With speed, security, and game variety as some of its notable strengths, many players were quickly drawn to the fun it provides. By enabling players to win prizes, more players became more driven to test their luck even when iGaming was just introduced.
With the rise of smartphone technology, online casino gaming was made better and much more convenient, thus drawing in the attention of more players. This paved the way for several online casinos to allow Nigerian players on their sites.
Now, there are several sites that accept Nigerian players. Compared to how it was before, more players are now switching to playing on online casinos. There are several reputable sites that allow Nigerian players to have full access to their sites, including games from top online casino operators.
Online casino gaming will continue to flourish in Nigeria seeing how it is embraced by local players. Although everything remains uncertain since the future is always subject to change, it is likely that more Nigerian players will sign up with different sites to play and win.
Generally speaking, the iGaming industry continues to thrive in several countries. No one knows yet if the Nigerian government will define the legality of online casinos soon. Once they do, locals will have to hope that it will be for the best.
This is just an overview of the popularity of online casinos in Nigeria. Should the legal situation stay the same, local players can continue placing bets on live dealer and slot games Africa.
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