Biggest grey-listing concern for iGaming sector is Malta’s banking sector becoming more difficult, expensive

Chief Executive Office of Maverick Slots and Founder and Chairman of iGen, Enrico Bradamante, has remarked that the Prime Minister’s strong comments on the MONEYVAL assessment, assuring Labour party delegates that the country will perform well as it did with handling the COVID pandemic, has given companies within the sector confidence.

He was speaking this morning on The Boardroom, which focussed on the sector locally. He was joined by Malta Gaming Authority CEO Heathcliff Farrugia, and while he understands why the MGA is not preparing for the possibility of Malta being grey-listed by the anti-money laundering and financial crime organisation, companies in Malta had to prepare for every eventuality.

Malta has till October to implement all recommendations made by MONEYVAL in order to avoid being the first European country to be placed on the Financial Action Task Force (Council of Europe organisation) grey-list. With Malta operating as a hub for the iGaming sector, with several companies offering services in the industry to other jurisdictions, and its attractiveness as a jurisdiction because of tax incentives, being grey-listed could spell disaster for the island.

Asked by presenter and business-writer Jo Caruana what the most tangible effects on the iGaming sector would be, should the worst happen, Mr Bradamante was clear that banking would become more difficult than it is today.

As the chairman of iGen, a network of iGaming companies in Malta who serve European markets, Mr Bradamante is well-placed to communicate the concerns of the industry. Part of his work with iGen is to coordinate with the MGA, the Government and Gaming Malta in order to foster an even stronger ecosystem with strong infrastructure – in terms of banking, schools, housing, transport – for the industry to thrive in Malta and for more investment to be attracted.

Onto the implications of being grey-listed for the industry, Mr Bradamante fears that an already poor banking sector would be made even more difficult and more expensive than it is today.

“Banking is an important component of a country’s infrastructure for companies and employees. The services being offered have gone down and there is no question about that.

“I think the lowest we got was in September, when Bank of Valletta announced the closure of a number of accounts, including several companies that were MGA licensed.

“Back to MONEYVAL, the single biggest concern is that should Malta get grey-listed, whether it is player funds, investors or distributing dividends – anything to do with banking services will be much more difficult and more expensive.

“I don’t have a prediction [for the MONEYVAL outcome], for me the most important and meaningful step has been when Prime Minister Robert Abela publicly stated, about a week ago, that Malta will not fail the test.

“I think this was a strong signal, and we welcome of course when a politician puts their neck on the line for something so important for the country. It gives us a lot of confidence.

“While the regulator is not making a Plan B, companies do have to plan for each eventuality. The statements by the Prime Minister and the authorities have given us confidence however.”

On the future of the sector in Malta, Mr Bradamante said it is bright and will continue. Turning to the impacts of remote working on gaming companies based in Malta, Mr Bradamante commented that nobody expected companies and workers to retain such levels of efficiency and adapt so quickly to remote working.

He does not believe that gaming offices will go back to 100 per cent occupancy, elaborating that he does not see a 100-strong company being kitted out with 100-desks, expecting their to be an amalgamation and flexibility for remote working and physical working practices.

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