2023 has been a year marked by major changes in the global eGaming regulatory ecosystem.
International licensing has always been essential to the sector, with countries that provide extensive, multi-country connectivity, such as the Isle of Man, Malta and Curaçao. These licences’ broad geographic scope, convenient market access, and advantageous tax regimes have made them extremely valuable.
In recent years we’ve seen significant changes as a number of nations established their own regulatory independence, recognising the value of the sector and the revenue it brings. These moves towards local regulatory frameworks have impacted some of these default regulatory hubs in 2023.
Specifically, Curaçao is experiencing a dramatic transformation as it attempts to evolve from being renowned for having lax regulations to one that is stricter and more regulated.
Having launched the Curaçao Gaming Authority (CGA) in order to centralise control, there is an emphasis on AML to prevent financial crimes and new ordinance to reinforce compliance standards.
There remains however, uncertainty amongst operators as to what the new regime will entail. That, and the questions around the profitability of a Curaçao licence due to increased costs and stricter restrictions has led to some companies opting for short-term licence renewals whilst they assess other jurisdictions.
Malta, having been successfully removed from FATF’s grey list in August 2022 has continued to beef up it’s regulatory framework, introducing things like the Player Protection Directive, the ESG Code of Good Practice and the Virtual Financial Assets Act.
The introduction of Bill 55 in Malta has gone some way to addressing cross-border legal issues and aims to safeguard operators licensed by the MGA however, the markets available to operators; particularly B2C casino and sportsbook operators, continues to become more restricted.
One international regulatory hub that has remained consistent throughout the regulatory changes in recent years is the Isle of Man. The Island’s regulatory stability, coupled with it’s reputation for high standards of AML and compliance provides a stable environment for businesses to thrive.
The Island has seen record growth in 2023, with the number of licence holders nearing the 100 mark as operators and software providers alike coveting the credibility that an Isle of Man licence provides.
In Europe, countries including Sweden, Hungary and Italy have all updated their gambling regulations demonstrating both a commitment to ensuring the safety of players but also harnessing a reliable revenue stream for governments.
The UK in particular are prioritising player safety, with proposals put forth in their whitepaper to reform several areas and foster a more stable environment. Changes in the License Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) mean increased scrutiny in what is already a well regulated market.
In North America growth continues at an explosive pace with various legislative changes opening up new states for operators. With more states pushing to legalise sports betting in particular, this represents significant opportunities and has seen a surge in interest from established operators, although it remains a complex web of regulatory requirements.
Latin America is also currently experiencing something of an online betting boom, led primarily by Brazil and Mexico. Brazil’s senate voted just last week to approve sports betting, although iGaming was removed from the bill. Although there remains some uncertainty, it would appear that regulation may finally be on its way there.
Beyond that, expanding sports betting markets in Argentina, Colombia, and Peru mean that many operators see Latin American markets as significant opportunities for growth. New regulations come into effect in Peru from February 2024, requiring operators to obtain their licence within a month, with severe fines for non-compliance.
For many operators, Latin America perhaps provides the most opportunities for growth in 2024.
A new state regulatory body set up in the UAE has been tasked with drafting commercial gaming regulations by the end of 2024, as they look to legalise gambling in the Emirate. With recent announcements about a Vegas style island, including MGM and Bellagio hotels in Dubai, many operators will watch developments with interest.
Looking forward to 2024
AML, responsible gambling and consumer protection continue to be areas of key focus across international gambling sectors, and we expect this to continue into 2024.
B2B remains a relatively untapped sector and although there is not requirement to licence, many providers are already seeking the credibility that being licensed in a trusted jurisdiction provides. We’ve already seen some of the larger content aggregator platforms obtaining licences themselves, as well as making this a pre-requisite for partners to do business with them.
The Isle of Man, with the regulatory stability and trusted reputation it offers, is well placed to help businesses navigate an increasingly complex environment.