It’s an exciting time to be at Betsson, Malta’s largest gaming company, and one of its longest-standing. The company’s second-quarter results, released a week ago, showed positive organic growth across different markets, which was aided and abetted by the 2018 World Cup. After a bumpy start to the year, when it made local headlines for shedding 130 of its employees, prompting speculation about what could have been going on within the company as well as the gaming industry in Malta as a whole, the company is ready to put its best foot forward once again, and get back on the right track.
“It was a very difficult decision, but it had to be taken to make the company stronger,” said Corinne Valletta, Betsson’s General Counsel, referring to the lay-offs at the beginning of the year. “The group was acquiring different companies, and we ended up with a lot of layering. On top of that, we weren’t fast enough to bring out new products. Consequently, the company started being seen as inefficient; while it was still turning a profit, it was just not doing as well as it should have been. The restructuring was one of the initiatives to help Betsson get back to where it was. We had to consolidate and get everything in line, rather than keep acquiring companies and piling them on. But hiring never stopped– we still need resources in particular areas of the business, and that has never changed.”
Betsson's headquarters in Ta' Xbiex
“While the first quarter showed that more work needed to be done, the second quarter was extremely positive for us,” Ms Valletta went on. “It’s important that we continue on that road to make sure the third quarter is even better. We’re in the right direction, on the right track. At the moment, Betsson is one of the most exciting places in the industry to be – not just because of the young and fun environment, and great offices, but because of everything that’s happening within the company. The results show that what we’re doing is working.”
Ms Valletta, who joined the company in 2017 as Head of Regulatory Affairs and Group Compliance after more than five years at the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), was promoted to her current role as General Counsel early in July, heading Betsson’s legal, regulatory and compliance affairs. She is the first Maltese woman in Betsson’s history to be appointed to the operational management team and says she could never have dreamt she would end up at the topmost legal position. “Usually, you hear a lot of chatter about everyone in iGaming being a foreigner, and in this sense, we’re proving them wrong.” In fact, Maltese people make up 35 percent of the employees at Betsson Group, the biggest single-nationality cohort within the company, and one of the largest percentages in any gaming company in Malta.
Explaining the responsibilities of her department, Ms Valletta stated that, “regulatory and compliance has more to do with licences and what one can and cannot do in a market, while legal deals with more general legal affairs of the business – for example, ensuring that Betsson is entering appropriate business arrangements when it decides to go ahead with a particular initiative in a market. While it’s important to keep a split, we have to make sure that the synergies of both departments are in sync. Although they have different areas of expertise, it’s important that legal is sensitive to what compliance is doing, and vice versa.”
She said that her role involves bridging the gap be-tween the two parts. “It is challenging – while there are similarities, each department is made up of people who have very different expertise. I’m taking my time to understand how both departments operate, and see if improvements can be made in that regard to make us stronger.” Indeed, there are plans for growth in Betsson’s legal department, to gear it up in order to be able to respond and properly advise the business accordingly.
“Gaming and gambling are converging as time goes by, and the changes to Malta’s gaming law show that the MGA recognises this. Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies and DLTs are fascinating and exciting developments for businesses all over, and for us, they are creating new but interesting challenges,” Ms Valletta said. Since every country in Europe has its own regulations when it comes to gaming, and standardising – or even streamlining these regulations – has been a slow process, the General Counsel of the company is essential to Betsson’s operations. “If you want to run a campaign, the legal team needs to understand the rules of that particular jurisdiction and make sure the arrangements with the supplier who is going to be helping with the campaign are in place, while compliance checks whether it is even legal to have that kind of campaign in that particular jurisdiction – they have to talk to each other,” Ms Valletta said.
Betsson currently has 11 licences to provide its services in different countries, and is moving to get its 12th, in Sweden. Asked whether this will change Betsson’s relation-ship with Malta once the company has a Swedish licence, Ms Valletta’s response is an emphatic ‘no’. “Operators that wish to offer their services to people in Sweden need to have a Swedish licence. It’s the same thing that has happened in many different jurisdictions, including Italy, England, and Spain. It may increase costs for the company in terms of compliance and complexity, and we may need more people in our Stockholm office, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re still totally committed to Malta. Malta is where our headquarters are, and that’s not changing. We’re not going anywhere.”
This article originally appeared in The Malta Business Observer