Over the course of a decade, the Isle of Man has come to be known as one of the most well-respected eGaming markets in the world. Mark Robson, head of eGaming in the Department for Economic Development, gives the government’s view of the sector on the Island.
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith the world of online gaming opening up in all corners of Europe, several governments have been vying for a slice of the ever-growing pie, but it’s hard to think of a region that has embraced eGaming quite as fully (and for as long) as the Isle of Man.
Since opening up the Island to eGaming companies fifteen years ago, the government has worked tirelessly to create a regulatory framework fit to attract the most high-quality businesses. Many of the industry’s household names are based there with revenues growing every year.
“The Isle of Man has a rich eGaming heritage, and it has always promoted innovative sectors. This has been part of the government’s strategy to bolster economic diversification,” explained Mark Robson, head of eGaming in the Department for Economic Development.
“Presently, there is an interesting mix of some of world’s biggest B2B and B2C brands headquartered on the Isle of Man, including Playtech, Microgaming and Pokerstars, and high growth emerging start-ups disrupting the industry.”
As well as the draw of business-friendly taxation, the culture and infrastructure of the Island have been set up to support gaming companies of all sizes. According to Robson, this has been in part organic and in part engineered, with a tight-knit community of specialised service providers located close to each other in the eGaming hub of Douglas.
The IOM has a robust regulatory framework, which filters in high-quality ambitious businesses. The Government is very supportive of and works closely with the businesses
“The IOM has a robust regulatory framework, which filters in high-quality ambitious businesses. The Government is very supportive of and works closely with the businesses,” added Robson. “We have created an excellent ecosystem for companies. There are corporate service providers, lawyers, accountants and consultants who specialise in the industry.
“We also have a robust IT infrastructure including carrier-class data connectivity, five hosting centres and overall cost-effectiveness, which makes the Island very attractive for both mature and small businesses. Also, there is a strong and capable data security infrastructure.”
The government’s slogan – “Isle of Man: Where you Can” – summarises this dedication to enabling businesses to reach their potential, but Robson is keen to stress that consumer-protection remains a priority.
“Player protection and KYC is at the heart of our e-gaming offering as well as strategy for future growth,” said Robson. “We have achieved a perfect balance between keeping crime out and supporting innovation and this is one of our biggest strengths recognised by the industry.”
The Isle of Man has been one of the first jurisdictions to support blockchain technology, the financial transactions system developed to support Bitcoin. After being approached by several companies in the digital currencies space, the government set about developing the right legislation for companies working in crypto-currencies to thrive on the Island.
For the past few years, bitcoin and eGaming have existed in symbiosis in the region, but the government has seen even greater potential in the blockchain, which could revolutionise the world of digital transactions by making them instantaneous, safe and free.
The eGaming industry is now the biggest GDP contributor on the Island representing 16.7 per cent of the economy with £168m worth of growth in just one year – a rise of 32 per cent
“Blockchain or distributed ledger technology is an innovation to be watched. According to its proponents, it could introduce trust and transparency in any online transaction,” said Robson. “It has a huge potential to change the way processing, storage and verification will happen in the future, especially in the eGaming industry.”
Most recently, the Isle of Man Government launched a £50m Enterprise Development Scheme (EDS) designed to boost entrepreneurialism on the Island. The scheme, which is now live, has already received significant interest from tech companies. The Island also hosts a series of entrepreneurial festivals and events – most recently a mega-event called Islexpo with a broad programme of speakers from the tech and finance world. With all of this, the ascent of eGaming on the Island looks set to continue.
“The eGaming industry is now the biggest GDP contributor on the Island representing 16.7 per cent of the economy with £168m worth of growth in just one year – a rise of 32 per cent,” he said. “We expect to see this growth continuing into 2016 with new licensees and the growth of existing businesses.”