Lack of Economic Alternatives Made the UK Government Allow Gibraltar’s Transformation into Thriving Online Casino Destination

A financial crime author has recently accused the UK of turning Gibraltar into the largest online casino on a global scale because of the increased interest of some gambling companies in the destination.

In his book “Butler to the World”, the researcher and financial crime author Oliver Bullough suggested that Gibraltar had been turned into the “world’s biggest online casino” by the UK.

Then, in an interview with Público, a Spanish news agency, Mr Bullough explained that British authorities started recognising gambling and betting activities as harmful because of their significant addictiveness and also started imposing heavier taxes on the sector no earlier than the mid-1990s. At the time, some owners of a leisure and entertainment business – Victor Chandler and his wife – decided to establish offices of their business in Gibraltar and Antigua, both of which had been considered gambling regulatory and tax havens because the Home Rule Governments had very little control over the gambling industry.

The financial crime author shared that Mr Chandler was sagacious, as he took into account customers’ love for betting on sports and races not only locally but all over the world, and also foresaw the robust future of online gambling. After that, some of the big names in the gambling industry, including William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral followed his suit – they closed their administrative headquarters in the UK and moved their offices to Gibraltar, also taking advantage of the more favourable regulation of the British overseas territory to online gambling.

As we all know, the Victor Chandler company was renamed to BetVictor in 2004. In February this year, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) announced investigation findings that the operator failed to comply with some social responsibility, fairness and anti-money laundering rules.

Gibraltar’s Economy Remains Pretty Much Dependent on the Gambling Sector Despite BREXIT Challenges

Mr Bullough noted that in the 1980s, about 60% of the economy of Gibraltar depended on the British Ministry of Defence, which at the time provided approximately 40% of the jobs in the shipyards of the British overseas territory.

According to him, Gibraltar had quickly become a popular and much-preferred gambling destination, so in a few years, the UK Government of Tony Blair had no other economic alternative for the Rock than to leave it be and even encourage it to become one of the biggest online casino hubs in the world. What the Government has not taken in mind, was the fact that, along with rising gambling revenues, the number of gambling addicts rose, too. This, however, does not seem to bother the operators that have been trying to get the best out of the market.

What is even more staggering is the fact that the gambling and betting sector in the Rock was hardly affected by BREXIT, despite some issues regarding the free movement of people who work in the local gambling industry and travel every day from Spain to Gibraltar and back.

For the time being, the Rock’s £2.35-billion economy remains very much dependent on the gambling sector that employs many frontier workers who travel back and forth on a daily basis, as well as on the Spanish tourists who visit Gibraltar. The decision of the UK to exit the European Union (EU) has initially brought serious turmoil to the British overseas territory because BREXIT has been associated with many limitations, including border protocol rules. Back in December 2020, gambling operators in Gibraltar had managed to reach contingency agreements that allowed them to access European Union markets without another deal. That helped the Rock keep its popularity as a preferred gambling destination that is still adapting to BREXIT-related changes.

Currently, there are approximately 35 gambling operating licenses handed out to companies in Gibraltar. As mentioned above, some companies that used to have their headquarters in the UK preferred to relocate their offices to the Rock in order to benefit from the more favourable 10% corporation tax rates. Some of the gambling industry giants’ businesses are based in Gibraltar, with many of them already having established offices and subsidiaries in EU member states, as they have wanted to be prepared for some of the complications expected to occur as a result of BREXIT.

According to reports, the amount of money gambled online in the UK rose almost 10 times in a 5-year period. In 2014, British gamblers gambled £13.4 billion online, with an average of £200 spent per adult. In comparison, five years later, the overall amount gambled online in the UK was estimated at £121.3 billion, while the average per adult amounted to £2,000. In addition, the number of problem gamblers in the UK rose from 250,000 to 460,000 in the five years from 2014 to 2019, with the number of underage gambling addicts in the country reaching 55,000 in 2019.

Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.

Daniel Williams

Author: Dale Alvarez