EGR Interview with BDO Malta CEO, Mark Attard
What is BDO’s approach to the iGaming industry – how do you differentiate your offering for your clients?
Our tried and tested process flow ensures that our clients can effectively apply for, and obtain a licence, within the shortest time frame.
At BDO Malta, clients interact directly with our Remote Gaming Desk – a team of multi-disciplinary professionals equipped with the necessary technical knowledge to understand business models of both B2B and B2C gaming operators, and how to guide these operators through regulatory matters that apply to such activities. Companies operating within the iGaming industry typically have complex cross-border structures. We excel in assisting clients navigate through tax laws and regulation changes related to operations within the gaming sphere.
Over the years, we have gained in-depth experience and knowledge in what is required to ensure that the process runs smoothly during the three main stages of a remote gaming business: pre-licencing, application period and post-licencing statutory obligations.
Being an active player within this industry, we are lucky to be able to draw feedback from our extensive client base, which in turn helps us to continuously refine our offering in line with our customers’ expectations.
In-house technical competencies range from corporate services, including taxation, accounting, audit, legal, risk & compliance, licensing and advisory; to complex advisory such as, analysis and due diligence for acquisitions, debt restructurings, international tax planning, strategic planning, IT controls and environment reviews.
Managing different professionals – lawyers, tax advisors, auditors, IT advisors and others – may sometimes prove challenging in terms of timeframes and coordination. So we built our own business process to provide a seamless and integrated workflow, focusing on a project team drawing on different professional skillsets available under one roof. Our clients are very satisfied with the benefits of the BDO integrated approach to relocating a business to Malta and the short timeframes for obtaining the necessary licences.
To ensure even higher degrees of efficiency, we have dedicated Remote Gaming Desk coordinators, whose sole objective is to deliver an exceptional service to our gaming clients.
What are the advantages of Malta’s legal framework for gaming companies, and what new legislative framework came into force in 2019?
Over the last decade, iGaming in Malta has flourished. Apart from creating a global reputation as a jurisdiction of excellence, the industry also employs thousands of local and foreign workers whilst contributing to around 12% of Malta’s GDP. As a result, it has significantly incentivised the Maltese government to create an innovative regulatory framework that sustains the regulatory and compliance obligations while driving Malta’s competitive edge further ahead.
There are many reasons why Malta has been the jurisdiction of choice for hundreds of gaming operators and service providers, mainly its robust regulatory framework, a well-structured and highly responsive regulator, an attractive fiscal regime, fast company and bank account opening processes, highly skilled workforce, and the high value attached to the seal of approval from the Malta Gaming Authority is synonymous with compliance, legitimacy and trust.
This, combined with the fact that the new Malta Gaming Act officially came into force on 1st August 2018 means that not only is the country even more attractive for operators, but it offers an even better level of protection for both businesses and consumers.
The current gaming act provides for a simplified licensing procedure whilst still ensuring that the process is stringent and fully compliant with legal requirements; there are now just two licenses available with the option of adding bolt-on licenses for different game types. The taxation regulations regarding proceeds from gaming have also been altered to provide more flexibility for operators and this new structure is particularly attractive to B2Bs, who will benefit from significant fiscal incentives. A lot of effort has also been put into the clarification and categorisation of game types, as well as a shift away from a prescriptive approach to a more objective one. The MGA has also taken steps to tighten compliance and to bolster rules around responsible gaming and fair advertising; in short, all of the previous regulations have been improved, updated, tightened, and where needed, simplified and streamlined.
How are you assisting clients in transferring to the new framework?
New or existing businesses transitioning to the new licence regime in Malta will find the process very straightforward.
Since the coming into force of the new Malta Gaming Act, we have received considerable requests from new and existing operators seeking compliance with the new requirements. We advise prospective and current clients on what necessary steps need to be taken, we take care of all of the paperwork, and we deal with the necessary authorities to ensure that no stone is left unturned. From licensing and categorisation matters to tax, company law, accounting needs, and ongoing maintenance of the licence, our team of professionals are able to ensure that the process is as swift and effective as possible.
What further services do you provide to your clients?
With over 40 years of practice in Malta, we have learnt to take the time and make an effort to understand our clients’ business models as a first step. Our Partners and staff are specialists in their fields and have a proactive, flexible approach to helping clients to overcome the challenges they face.
Through our own professional expertise and by working directly with businesses, we’ve developed a unique insight into what makes a business successful. It’s this insight that makes us true business advisers, rather than mere financial consultants.
We offer specialist expertise in most aspects of company management, including corporate services, taxation, accounting, legal, auditing, administration and our recently set up service lines, Blockchain and Fintech Advisory and Technology Advisory. Our clients are serviced by a multi-disciplinary team, organised into eight support units: Audit and Assurance, Corporate Services, Legal, Risk & Compliance, Business Outsourcing and Accounting, Tax Consultancy and Compliance, Client Relationship Management, Technology Advisory and Fintech.
Where is the gaming industry headed in 2019 and beyond?
Evidently, the impact and growth of Digital has bolstered the remote gaming industry and helped turn gambling into a casual past time. With the ever-increasing proliferation of mobile devices, Online Casinos and Sports Books are now always at our fingertips or in our pockets. In the coming years, gaming companies will undoubtedly leverage this to continue maximising their profits. We are also witnessing developments in the social casino scene, where several start-up gaming companies have invested heavily to weave elements of social platforms and live TV into a casino environment.
We are really eager to see how the industry is going to develop over the next decade especially with the fintech, crypto and blockchain revolution knocking on our doors.
Blockchain technology has been slowly but surely tiptoeing into our modern day lives, and today its presence can be felt like never before. Certain industries have connected very early with Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies on a deeper level than others, and gambling is one such industry. I think that the blockchain sector offers a lot of possibilities for evolution within the iGaming sector and I am keen to see where collaborations between key players in each sector will take us. Even from a regulatory and legal standpoint, a lot remains unanswered and watching this innovative technology grow, in much the same way that the iGaming industry did, is going to be something really special. Malta has done a fantastic job at become the world leader in providing a regulatory framework for DLT related platforms and blockchain-enabled structures.
In terms of BDO, I expect to witness exponential growth as our portfolio of both local and international iGaming and Blockchain clients continues to expand. Through our dedication to excellence and our commitment to providing the best legal and corporate solutions, we anticipate that we will have the opportunity to assist with some truly ground-breaking projects and ventures.
These are exciting times for BDO in Malta and we look forward to assisting more clients develop their success stories out of Malta.
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