Malta is no longer the ideal place to launch a gaming start-up, industry experts told a panel discussion on Thursday evening, urging the Government to focus on attracting new investment.

Organised by the Malta Business Network, the hour-long panel discussion was moderated by Malta Gaming Authority chief executive Carl Brincat and heard how it has become increasingly difficult for new start-ups to launch in Malta.

If this situation persisted, the experts agreed, it would be detrimental to the long-term prospects of Malta’s gaming industry.

The panel included gaming law experts Michele Magro and Joseph Borg, Justin Psaila, the chief financial officer of a prominent gaming business, and Enrico Bradamante, founder of the Gaming European Network (iGEN).

Taking policymakers to task, Dr Borg argued that a proposal to significantly increase financial investment that new gaming start-ups require to secure a licence in Malta was pushing these new companies to other jurisdictions.

Dr Borg, who lectures gaming law at the University of Malta, argued that, as with many other sectors, growth in the gaming market comes through innovation.

Pushing away innovation in the form of start-ups, he said, would be detrimental to the gaming sector in the years to come.

“You either grow or die. We need to get new operators. If we stop attracting start-ups, then how do we propose to grow this sector?” he asked.

Dr Borg was referring to the value of share capital gaming companies require to secure a gaming licence in Malta, and a proposal to increase this significantly.

Mr Bradamante agreed that “today Malta is not best positioned to attract start-ups”. But putting licensing requirements aside, he said, the banking sector was also making matters difficult. It was still too cumbersome for gaming operators to secure a corporate banking account in Malta, he lamented.

Another major issue is shortages in talent, Mr Bradamante said: “We cannot continue to rely on importing talent from outside of Malta,” questioning why such a well-paying and successful sector was not attracting Maltese professionals.

Dr Magro, who previously headed the MGA’s supervisory council before moving into the private sector, moved the discussion onto Malta’s tax regime.

While tax had been one of the leading reasons gaming companies decided to set up shop in Malta, looming tax harmonisation rules would level the playing field for many operators.

He argued that Malta therefore needs to redefine its offering and begin investing in the island’s infrastructure, education, and overall appearance. He also said that policymakers need to be bold and put forward daring policies that continue attracting and retaining investment in this area.

It would be a mistake, he said, to allow the experience of financial greylisting, and the fear of further reprisal from international bodies, to hold the island back from going after investment.

The so-called grey list is a list of jurisdictions deemed to be financially untrustworthy by the global Financial Action Task Force. Malta spent one year on the list between 2021 and 2022.

“We’ve been the bad boy of Europe. But we got off the grey list and now it’s time to focus on our competitiveness and attractiveness as a jurisdiction,” he said.

On his part, Psaila said that in ongoing discussions with the Government, representatives of the gaming sector have already expressed how new tax rules present an opportunity for Malta to position itself to attract more investment.

About the Malta Business Network

The Malta Business Network organises monthly panel discussions on a variety of economic sectors and niches. Next month, however, rather than a panel discussion, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana will address members and guests followed by a Christmas lunch.

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