At the turn of the New Year, the UK officially parted ways with the European Union. The end of the transition period brought four-and-a-half years of uncertainty, bickering and tension to a close.
Well, an end to uncertainty for the most part.
Even going into the final hours of the transition period, details needed ironing out. One particular area of interest was Gibraltar, a small territory sharing a land border with EU member Spain.
Gibraltar was one of the highest ‘Remain’-voting areas in the referendum, with more than 90% of its population voting in favour of keeping ties with the EU. The territory is also home to various betting operators, and employs thousands of people living in Spain.
With the UK no longer working as closely with Brussels as before, how will Brexit affect Gibraltar’s gambling industry?
The land border with Spain
For many people living in Spain, Gibraltar offers much more when it comes to job opportunities. While around 30,000 people live in Gibraltar, 15,000 or so commute daily across the border and into Gibraltar to make a living.
In some neighbouring Spanish towns, unemployment rates in certain neighbourhoods are as high as 80%. However, their opportunities will not disappear completely as a result of Brexit.
As the clock ticked down on 2020, UK and Spanish officials agreed that Gibraltar would join the Schengen Area. Therefore, border checks are set to be removed. For Gibraltar-working professionals living in Spain, they will continue to enjoy minimal disruption to their daily commute as a result of the agreement.
Immigration and attracting skilled professionals
Now the UK is no longer part of the EU, immigration from Europe and beyond will be treated equally. The country has introduced a new points-based immigration system, which aims to attract highly-skilled professionals to the country.
Despite the introduction of new immigration laws for the UK mainland, they don’t necessarily apply in Gibraltar. The territory’s own authorities decide whether an individual meets the conditions to obtain a work or residence permit.
It’s also worth noting that if someone has been granted a residence permit in the UK, the permit will not apply to residence in Gibraltar. Instead, they will need to apply separately.
One area that will definitely not change is the status of UK nationals moving to Gibraltar. Anybody with British citizenship can move to and work in the territory without needing to obtain any kind of permit. Therefore, betting companies employing professionals with a UK passport can still move these employees to their Gibraltarian base without needing to sponsor a visa or make other such arrangements.
Setting up a gambling company in Gibraltar
For EU businesses looking to set up in the UK, they will no longer be able to use the union’s right to start a business in another member state. In addition, companies looking to relocate to Gibraltar will need to comply with Gibraltar-specific laws rather than those of the UK.
Setting up a company as a complete newcomer to the gambling industry has never been easy in Gibraltar. That being said, it can certainly be done.
As the official government website states:
“The Licensing Authority has traditionally only considered licensing blue chip companies with a proven track record in gambling in other jurisdictions.
“Nevertheless, the jurisdiction will also consider the licensing of appropriately funded start-ups and expanding operations proposing to relocate wholly or partly from other jurisdictions.”
Betting companies relocating to Gibraltar are expected to contribute to the territory’s economy, and have to pass necessary fitness tests. Companies not already in Gibraltar will also have to showcase their business plan, on top of other requirements.
Some changes for Gibraltar’s betting industry, but not as many as you might think
For the most part, Gibraltar’s betting industry won’t be impacted too greatly by Brexit. Professionals from the UK will still be able to move there without a residence permit, as was the case before. EU nationals, however, will need to acquire permission to work in Gibraltar, albeit without adhering to the same points-based system as the UK mainland.
iGaming companies looking to relocate to Gibraltar will similarly not need to make many considerable changes when compared to the previous approach. The same principles still apply: they are required to prove that they can operate with integrity and contribute economically to the local economy. Operators must also acquire licensing from the Gibraltar Gambling Commission, as was the case before Brexit.
For gambling industry professionals who happen to work in Spain, they can commute to work without needing extra border checks.
Gambling in Gibraltar is covered by the 2005 Gambling Act, and the jurisdiction’s gambling future could be impacted by the Act’s review in 2021. It is expected that any revisions to the Act’s stipulations will nevertheless enable the territory to continue to attract operators and professionals alike, however.