Gaming Malta is responsible for liaising with the local relevant authorities to improve Malta's attractiveness as a jurisdiction and enhance the ecosystem surrounding the gaming industry. Since the independent non-profit foundation’s inception three years ago, its remit has broadened to encompass all sectors of the gaming world, including digital gaming and e-sports.
“Engaging with all the key stakeholders and ensuring we connect with the different parts of the industry to promote, strengthen and accelerate growth across all gaming sectors is of perennial importance,” says Christian Sammut, Chairman at Gaming Malta. “Joining and connecting the dots within the ecosystem is a vital component of our work. Our networking events and international roadshows serve as a platform for this, and also help to attract investors to the industry.”
Mr Sammut asserts that, despite Malta’s continued success, it is not a time to rest on our laurels, and Gaming Malta is firmly focused on ensuring that Malta retains its excellent gaming position while responding to challenges with well-thought out, collaborative and sustainable solutions. “We work closely with the public sector, for example, Identity Malta, to facilitate the service given to remote gaming companies in light of their influx of talent. We also hold Identity Malta outreach programmes at our Smart City offices, and visit gaming companies to address their employees and hear their feedback about the jurisdiction. On the property front, we have initiated a collaboration with PropertyMalta to address challenges which the sector is facing in this regard.”
Beyond engaging with the public sector, Ivan Filletti, Head of Operations and Business Development says that gaming companies are increasingly evolving into tech companies in their own right, and so, Gaming Malta is intensifying its efforts to reach out to other non-gaming channels. “We believe that while there is awareness of the sector, there isn't enough awareness about the specific skills and know-how that the industry brings to the island,” he explains. “Our European Fantasy Sports Summit (EFSS) during SiGMA was our first foray into organising a large-scale sectoral-specific conference, which brought international speakers to one Daily Fantasy Sports summit. EFSS is to become a staple in the global Daily Fantasy Sports international calendar, and we are looking into more sectoral events of this kind.”
Gaming Malta supports initiatives which lie on different points of the gaming spectrum, such as poker and e-sports tournaments, and supports and promotes start-up events on international roadshows with the aim of giving start-up founders a platform to present their new business models. The foundation is also digging into equality and diversity in the gaming workplace by kick-starting relevant conversations with the sector. “Our support to organisations like 100 Women in Finance gives impetus to this important initiative,” says Mr Filletti. “We have now been given the remit to draw up a national strategy for the digital gaming sector, which is a new ball game altogether with its distinct challenges and opportunities.”
Speaking of opportunities, Mr Filletti envisages a merging of factors within the industry which will give rise to plenty new and exciting prospects in the coming months and years. “Businesses are reaching their maturity, so there’s much more dialogue going on with tech and innovation business. Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Blockchain will help gaming companies take their game to the next level, ultimately helping them be better at what they do so well already. We want to continue seeing organic growth of the iGaming sector, supporting innovative models and ensuring that our mission of fostering a ‘Home of Gaming Excellence’ is also extended to other verticals, particularly to digital gaming and e-sports.” Mr Filletti continues.
On a global scale, the digital gaming market is estimated to have generated $109.5 billion (€92 billion) in 2017, and is predicted to grow to over $159.3 billion (€134 billion) by 2022 – a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8 per cent, with growth led primarily by Asia and the mobile gaming market. “In Malta, we have some excellent foreign and local game studios, and we have been tasked with setting up a country strategy for this sector, which we are currently working on,” he adds.
With regards to e-sports, which have higher viewership than most traditional sports, Mr Filletti says it offers a wealth of opportunities to tap into. “A recent European e-sports tournament we attended had 25,000 ‘bums on seats’, yet 46.6 million viewers watching online. So you have highly-engaged, affluent millennials watching, and Malta can serve as a base not just for tournaments but also as a base for team franchises. Just think of the marketing potential for Malta with all those online viewers, with an attractive demographic and visiting fans to the island.”
Turning to one of the most talked-about technologies of the moment – Blockchain – will the positioning of Malta as a ‘Blockchain island’ benefit the gaming industry? “More accurately, we are positioning Malta as a DLT frontrunner, and we believe that Distributed Ledger Technology is a paradigm shift which will transform industries around us, including bringing gaming companies to a new digital age,” says Mr Sammut. “For example, as for iGaming proving the fairness of a result or draw and ensuring transparency of pay-outs is a main motivator, Blockchain is a solution. Due to its decentralised nature, Blockchain is not controlled by a single user, making it almost impossible to change or tamper with the underlying data. This means that Blockchain offers the concept of ‘provable fairness’, since smart contracts offer the ability for a random-number generation (RNG) to take place in an entirely decentralised and verifiable way.”
While opportunities within and for the industry abound, there are also challenges, and Mr Sammut is frank about the biggest task currently afflicting the gaming industry. “Talent. Talent. Talent. Success breeds success, and ultimately, it is all a talent game. Attracting the right talent to the sector is vital, and we need to work hand-in-hand with the industry to ensure there’s a steady stream of home-grown talent and foreign employees willing to relocate to Malta.”
Gaming Malta is currently working with the Federico II University in Naples, which houses the only Apple IOs academy in Europe, with the aim of enabling Malta-based gaming companies to tap into emerging talent, and similar collaborations will also be extended to other European colleges and Universities. “The recently-launched European Gaming Institute of Malta (EGIM), in collaboration with the MGA and MCAST, is a step in the right direction. Local students seeking a career in iGaming will gain a solid academic foundation leading up to a Master’s programme, enhanced by visiting lecturers from the industry, which also ensures the continued relevance of the syllabus in line with the needs of the sector.”
Looking ahead, Mr Filletti states that working in tandem with the relevant authorities is vital for the continued success of the industry. “Many operators see us as the bridge to the public sector, so we have set up strong collaborative relationships with the Parliamentary Secretariat for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation, IdentityMalta, PropertyMalta and Malta Enterprise to name a few. We subscribe to the public sector having a pro-business approach, and ease of doing business should underline all these processes.”
This article originally appeared in iGaming Capital