Malta’s online gaming industry has ballooned over the past few years, with official figures telling a story of prosperity, high employment and increasing revenue for the island. Today, the sector accounts for a sizeable part of the economy, amounting to over €1.2 billion, or over 12 per cent of the local GDP. However, the direct investment injected into the economy by operators in the sector tells only part of the story. There is another to tell, that of the way in which this gold rush may have benefitted other industries. Have they seen an increase in revenue? And how have they adapted their operations to suit the demands of this healthy young industry?
Leisure and entertainment
The rise of iGaming has “coincided with the increase of affluent business professionals on the island”, according to Jon Grafton, Creative Marketing Manager for Azure and Azure Ultra – an outfit which organises yacht charters. Mr Grafton says that the industry sees chartering a yacht “as an ideal way to spend leisure time and de-stress.” He estimates that around 20 per cent of Azure Ultra’s business comes from those involved in iGaming, from professionals seeking to book a private charter or from businesses organising team-building exercises. “The increased demand has had a positive impact on our bottom line, which we plough back into the business through purchasing more yachts and employing more captains and crew,” Mr Grafton explains.
Indeed, as a result of the increased business, the agency has created tailor-made charter packages for the sector, since “iGaming-oriented bookings tend to include a lot more special requests in terms of cuisine, water-sport activities and themed itineraries, such as famous film locations around the Maltese archipelago,” he says. Moreover, the company has had to become more flexible to accommodate last-minute changes, and bookings, in order to keep up with the demands from the sector. The team also now includes a specialist charter executive “who is a wiz at creating bespoke charter packages”.
While Azure is experiencing an increased demand for specialised on-board catering and services, such as massages or water-sports instruction, which do come as an extra cost, it is careful to ensure that its prices are fair. “Our prices are always right because we – quite uniquely among Malta yacht charter companies – own our own yachts and they’re all fully insured,” Mr Grafton says. In the future, the company plans to keep building on this success, offering corporate conference packages at sea. “iGaming has a great need for variety and excitement, and that’s what we’ll offer,” Mr Grafton asserts.
Back on dry land, catering establishments in the main entertainment areas of Valletta, Sliema and St Julian’s seem to be constantly pounding with patrons, with tables often difficult to secure, unless you have a booking. Robert Bonnici, PR and Marketing Manager for the ubiquitous Hugo’s brand, underlines this “positive effect” on the industry. Not only do professionals working in the iGaming sector “frequent our venues on a regular basis, but their spend is often much higher than average,” he explains. Moreover, there has been a demand for corporate functions and private events catering to the local and international iGaming community according to Robert.
Andrew Galea, the Sales and Marketing Manager of hotel Group Corinthia, adds that while the company picks up some business for corporate and social events, as well as some hotel bookings for visiting delegates, the business accrued during industry conferences, such as Sigma, is what really makes a difference to the company’s bottom line, with many delegates staying in the hotel. Indeed, the remote gaming sector is a market the Group is very interested in. “We are currently in the process of promoting the range of services Corinthia possesses, not only in terms of hotel rooms, but also ancillary entertainment services such as restaurants, bars and event venues,” Mr Galea says.
As a sector which relies heavily on technology, iGaming requires high-level resources and services. Computime Software, a company which specialises in providing IT infrastructure, software and business solutions, is one stakeholder which supplies such products and capabilities to businesses operating in Malta’s online gaming industry.
John Wood, the company’s CEO, says that the company has seen a positive multiplier effect arising from the increased business with iGaming companies. “The sector attracts large multinational iGaming operations which create demand for the software and infrastructural solutions which we deliver,” he states, going on to assert that this accounts for “currently, approximately 15 per cent of our revenue”. The most common solutions on-demand are IT engineering and infrastructural solutions, IT security products and services, and software solutions focused on compliance monitoring and marketing optimisation, he explains.
He also notes that iGaming clients demand sophisticated solutions and, as a result, the market “provides us with an opportunity to develop our business, and to adapt our solutions by widening our product portfolio with a clear focus on servicing iGaming companies.” Indeed, he explains the changes in the type of solutions the company is currently offering, specifying that Computime is customising its software solutions to meet the specific demands of the iGaming sector, enabling them to deliver a quick return-on-investment to their clients. Other changes the company has instituted include adapting its client onboarding process to make sure “we only do business with reputable and established iGaming companies”, allowing the company to better manage its payment and credit terms, along with the other business risks inherent in such an enterprise.
The meteoric rise of the iGaming industry has also resulted in a demand for ancillary corporate services in a variety of fields such as insurance. “Remote gaming has provided a lot of potential to prove our mettle in managing the varied and sometimes complex insurance requirements that the Gaming industry needs,” says Malcolm Ellul, Associate Director of Mediterranean Insurance Brokers, specifying that it now manages a sizable gaming portfolio, which is growing rapidly in size.
While Mr Ellul admits it is hard to establish the percentage of MIB’s business derived directly from the iGaming sector, he claims that the requirements are broad and range from “the direct insurances taken out by the business operators themselves” to “affinity and benefit schemes for employees”. In the future, the company hopes to attract even more interest, and, to this end, it has started attending Gaming-related conferences locally and overseas, and “plans to remain a market leader in providing insurance arrangements for the gaming Industry” since “gaming falls within the natural growth process of the Group,” Mr Ellul asserts.
Indeed, this seems to be the trend, for as Malta continues to attract further investment in the field of iGaming, businesses in attendant sectors are gearing up to continue offering the specialised resources to the sector, thus enabling Malta to retain its competitivity and its winning streak.
This article originally appeared in iGaming Capital