Brexit: UK Guarantees Gibraltar Access to Gambling Markets Through to 2020

Gibraltar chief minister Fabian Picardo

Gibraltar chief minister Fabian Picardo praised the UK government’s efforts to ensure market access for Gibraltar-based companies, but the Rock is understandable nervous about the uncertainties of a post-Brexit landscape. (Image: Gibraltar Olive Press)

Gibraltar’s online gambling market has been thrown a lifeline by assurances from the UK government that “the Rock” will enjoy border-free access to the UK market for financial services and online gaming until 2020.

By then it’s hoped Britain and its dependent territory on the tip of the Spain will have thrashed out a new framework of regulation that will serve as commercial guidance for a post-Brexit reality – whatever that might look like.

The online gambling hub, which licenses dozens of big-brand online gambling sites, from 888 to Lottoland, relies on the UK market for more than 90 percent of all of its business under EU single market rules.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Nevertheless, Gibraltar, an EU member by virtue of its British territory status, has benefited from the free cross-border movement of people, goods and services that EU membership assured – as have its online gambling licensees.

There are fears, though, that some licensees might jump ship, post-Brexit, to a rival jurisdiction like Malta where these privileges are assured.

Gibraltarians voted emphatically to remain in the EU, by more than 94 percent, and are naturally anxious about the impact of Brexit on their economy. The territory’s online gambling industry is its biggest employer, and accounts for 25 percent of its GDP.

But due to its tiny size, most of its workforce lives across the border in Spain and much of the territory’s ability to compete as an online gambling jurisdiction in the future will rely on Spain’s willingness to allow some cross-border movement.

Gibraltarians consider themselves overwhelmingly British and have rejected Spain’s suggestion of a “shared sovereignty” that would allow Gibraltar to stay in the EU.

Bilateral Relationship

As with so many of the issues surrounding Brexit, the future remains unclear, but Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo this week welcomed the efforts of the British government to accommodate a tiny territory that was in danger of becoming an afterthought amid sometimes chaotic EU negotiations.

“Great care has rightly been taken by the UK and Gibraltar to ensure regulatory standards will be maintained between us in a manner that will be designed to assure customer protection and equivalence on regulatory outcomes going forward,” he said.

“Today our bilateral relationship grows stronger and the terms for it to endure are further cemented as we realise the commitment to maintain and enhance market access for Gibraltar service providers into the UK post-Brexit.”

The UK government said it had agreed a “a positive package deal on issues surrounding our exit from the EU, once again demonstrating that we stand shoulder to shoulder with Gibraltarians in our unwavering commitment to the UK-Gibraltar relationship.”

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