The Isle of Man has done extremely well out of eGaming over the last decade. We recently attended the KPMG eGaming Summit, the Island’s largest annual gaming gathering, and the continued growth of the local sector was apparent to everyone. The question to ask, however, is whether this is solely the natural growth of established Manx players, or if the Island is genuinely still an attractive jurisdiction for new businesses looking for a permanent home.
Let’s look at the growth headlines from the Summit first. Gaming is now the Island’s largest sector, having contributed 16.7% of its GDP in the last financial year. That very high figure – which compares, for example, to about 12% in Malta – speaks to the ‘cluster effect’ enjoyed by Manx operators, in which the local private and public sectors are very much geared towards supporting the industry. Jobs in the sector have also increased by almost 10%, with around 180 vacancies open at the time of writing in a population of just 80,000. Betting duty for the Isle of Man Government is up by a little over 10% despite the introduction of double duty relief.
All good news for the Island, but the question to be asked of these figures is whether they just reflect the continued growth of a few big players – Microgaming and PokerStars being the obvious candidates – or whether the Island remains an innovation hub. Although the Island has a very respectable 46 licensees – particularly given its emphasis on ‘quality not quantity’ – they have seen some de-licensing over the last year, due largely to the changes in the UK licensing regime.
The answer is that yes, there is growth to be had outside of these big players. Although the growth in the absolute number of licencees may have plateaued, there is more focus on unlicensed software development activities, payment providers, data hosting, and moves into entirely new areas. For example, whereas much of the world is just now considering how to licence eSports and Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), the Isle of Man has been licensing these activities for the past year, and this is typical of its proactive approach to new opportunities. Similarly, it is home to as many as twenty blockchain based businesses, having led the charge on promoting the growth of this interesting new area of FinTech.
On top of that, the Island does retain strong USPs for start-ups, even over other responsive and agile jurisdictions. It has, undoubtedly, better power infrastructure than most if not all of its competitors. Plus, it is certainly recognised as one of the best regulated jurisdictions, with regulators from other countries often visiting to learn why the Isle of Man is the only gaming jurisdiction to have never had a significant player protection problem.
So overall, yes, the Island does still stack up as a great gaming jurisdiction. Although it has relative strengths and weaknesses versus other leading licence providers, such as Malta or Gibraltar or even the UK, and a decision on where to base will always be led by a particular company’s needs, there are certainly plenty of good reasons to consider it a top-tier choice.