Every year, more and more licensing and regulatory requirements come into force across the international iGaming scene. As such, it is becoming increasingly difficult for any operator to navigate the landscape and make informed choices that ensure their business can thrive without falling foul of legal pitfalls.
IGA Group – formerly IG Advisors – was launched to assist gaming businesses with these precise headaches. Founded by Mario Fiorini in 2017, the Group brings to the table specialised skills and knowledge that traditional advisory firms simply do not possess. With over 16 years’ experience in the industry and boasting a solid technical background in engineering, Mr Fiorini was confident he could better understand the challenges that today’s iGaming operators face and felt the need to provide something more niche within the advisory service space.
“In my opinion, it’s just like when you need a doctor; there’s a time for a GP and a time for a specialist. At IGA Group, we like to think of ourselves as true experts within the iGaming sector. We offer a 360-degree service for any iGaming brand, whether they’re still setting up shop or are more established. We can assist a company from inception by providing guidance with their legal, financial, and technical development through to offering assistance with day-to-day operations, maintaining regulatory compliance, and acquiring international gambling licences,” Mr Fiorini explains.
Having successfully assisted many companies with obtaining their gambling licences in Malta and other international jurisdictions, IGA Group has firmly established itself as one of the industry’s most experienced iGaming service providers, capable of guiding operators safely through the murky waters of never-ending regulatory and compliance reforms with ease.
In recent years, licensing requirements have become so labyrinthine that the subject has turned into something of a bone of contention within certain quarters of the wider gaming industry, especially among newer operators entering the fold. Without a doubt, obtaining a gambling licence can prove to be a lengthy, complicated, and costly process, with fees and taxes placing significant strain on any fledgling operator’s start-up budget. As such, some are attempting to do away with licensing altogether by operating exclusively within unregulated markets.
With all this in mind, do gambling licences continue to hold value today?
Absolutely,” Mr Fiorini asserts. “The difference between operating in regulated and unregulated markets is night and day. Firstly, a gambling licence is regarded as a mark of quality and respectability that not only elevates the company, but the industry itself. Regulated markets provide players with a safer environment that, in turn, is reflected in a player’s trust and loyalty towards a brand. And while the costs may seem burdensome, regulation implemented in the right way can drastically increase an operator’s revenues and safeguard their business in the long run.”
While the Malta Gaming Authority licence continues to be regarded as the gold standard of licensing – giving iGaming brands the freedom to operate within many international jurisdictions – the industry is seeing an upward trend in countries seeking to regulate online casinos and sportsbooks through their own regional licences. Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany are just some states that have been introducing tougher regulation and licensing requirements to operate within their respective markets.
Are these changes posing a threat to Malta’s attractiveness as a competitive jurisdiction for gaming companies to operate from?
“I think it’s important to distinguish between being a regulated market and being a true iGaming hub. Malta had the foresight to invest time, money, and resources into building a holistic iGaming ecosystem while the industry was still in its infancy. Other countries may now have regulation in place, but this does not necessarily mean they have the infrastructure to support iGaming businesses and see them flourish. Malta provides iGaming brands with the professional services they need, an established and robust infrastructure, as well as a large pool of industry-specific talent that other jurisdictions cannot match,” he explains.
That being said, Mr Fiorini is keen to point out that IGA Group remains cognizant of these shifts within the industry and recognises that fragmentation with further regional regulation is a reality that cannot be ignored. As such, the company is continuing to keep abreast of new regulatory frameworks to assist clients with obtaining licences from multiple jurisdictions.
Currently, the local sector is also under increased pressure to remain a competitive base of operations in the face of emerging iGaming markets, including India, Nigeria, and Latin America, all of which could potentially challenge Malta’s status as a leading iGaming hub of choice. And the question stakeholders are asking is: has the FATF greylisting caused any significant reputational damage, and are local operators looking to defect elsewhere?
“This industry is known for its resilience and flexibility. Being greylisted is certainly not something anyone would have hoped for, but there is a quiet confidence within the sector that Malta has the maturity to course-correct and emerge from the situation stronger than before,” Mr Fiorini says, before adding that, in his experience working with local operators, he has not seen any major fallout related to the greylisting.
As for claims that Malta’s online gaming industry is at greater risk of serving as a potential conduit for money laundering activities, Mr Fiorini believes such statements to be somewhat ill-founded.
“It’s a very wrong perception to state that the iGaming industry is at a higher risk of being targeted for money laundering. In actual fact, the local iGaming sector is ahead of many other online businesses with regards to anti-money laundering (AML) regulation, and is one of the least probable industries to be a victim of money laundering. This was achieved thanks to the high standards implemented by the MGA, which has continued to step up its supervisory reach on licensees over the past years through collaboration with other local and international regulatory bodies,” he asserts.
Mr Fiorini believes this is further proof – if proof be needed – that it is in an operator’s best interest to acquire a respectable licence. Through a licence, operators are given clear rules of operation within that jurisdiction, including transparent tax policies, robust AML procedures, and legal protection from the state in case of disputes. Furthermore, a licence ensures that leading solution providers and financial institutions will be open to conducting business with that operator.
While the process may seem daunting and complicated, Mr Fiorini assures operators that an advisory specialist like IGA Group can simplify the process and put them on the right track for success.
“Regulation is constantly changing and there are vast differences between jurisdictions. That’s why each company should make it a priority to find the right partner to assist with their licensing needs. At IGA Group, we offer a multinational service and can assist clients with obtaining their MGA licence as well as licences from all other major jurisdictions,” he concludes.
This interview was first carried in the Winter 2021/2022 edition of iGaming Capital magazine, the sister publication to iGamingCapital.mt, both produced by Content House Group
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