Gibraltar-based 888 To Apply for Maltese License as ‘Brexit Back-up Plan’

Posted on: April 1, 2018, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: March 31, 2018, 06:53h.

Gibraltar-licensed 888 has declared its intention to apply for licensing in rival online gaming jurisdiction Malta, a reaction to the uncertainties that Brexit will inflict on the British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain.

888 could quit Gibraltar for Malta
888 said that it would be unable to operate with a Gibraltar license in the event of a “hard Brexit” as it would not be able to rely on the freedom of services within the EU. (Image: YouTube)

“888 is not able to control political changes of this nature, however it is proceeding with its back-up plan of obtaining a gaming licence in Malta and establishing a server farm in Ireland so that it can continue to serve European markets with no disruption to its business,” said 888 in its 2008 preliminary results report this week.

The company’s “Brexit back-up plan” is a troubling sign for Gibraltar, whose online gambling industry is its largest employee and accounts for around 25 of its gross domestic product. The tiny territory’s economy relies on the free movement of people across the Spanish border, where most of its workforce live, of which there can be no guarantee, post-Brexit.

 Between A Rock and a Hard Place

‘The Rock’ has benefited greatly from the free cross-border movement of people, goods and services that is enshrined in EU membership and so have its gambling licensees.

While some licensees have said they intend to stick with Gibraltar, 888 is not likely to be the only operator to jump ship.

Gibraltar is currently an EU member by virtue of its British territory status but has no say in the ongoing Brexit negotiations. Its citizens voted overwhelmingly to remain in the union in the 2016 Brexit referendum, by more than 94 percent.

Nevertheless, they consider themselves overwhelmingly British and reject any Spanish claims of sovereignty.

Fears of Dotcom ‘Brexodus’

Gibraltar faces a “Brexodus” of dotcom companies if the terms of Britain’s exit from Europe are unfavourable. 888 noted this week that Spain, with which the UK has periodically clashed over the sovereignty of the territory, could use its EU voting powers to punish Gibraltar for its refusal to accept joint sovereignty.

“The status of Gibraltar as a result of Brexit remains unclear,” said 888. “Recent indications by the European Union have suggested that Spain would be granted a veto right with respect to the application to Gibraltar of transitional arrangements agreed with the United Kingdom, which increases the risk of a ‘hard Brexit’ for Gibraltar.”

“If 888 were to remain registered, licenced and operating in Gibraltar in these circumstances, its ability to rely on EU freedom of services and establishment principles in supplying its services within the EU will be limited.”