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28 LAYING DOWN THE LAW The new iGaming Act introduced in Malta this year promises to be revolutionary, but what will the changes entail, and what effect will they truly have?


36 MALTA GAMING WEEK: AN EDITION TO RIVAL ALL OTHERS The Malta Gaming Week has been breaking records since its inception, and this year, the organisers hope to exceed expectations.

48 MALTA’S CRYPTOCURRENCY SANDBOX: WHAT COULD IT REVEAL? A testing environment for crypto adoption may encourage an understanding of the technology’s implications.

52 15 QUESTIONS FOR HEATHCLIFF FARRUGIA The head of the Malta Gaming Authority talks about the dynamism of the iGaming industry and the importance of preparing the next generation of tech workers.


42 THE ART OF BOOMERANGING In some industries, going from job to job and then returning to your original employer might be frowned upon, but not in iGaming; here’s why.

N 59 WORK HARD, PLAY HARD – ALL IN THE SAME SPACE What makes iGaming offices special, and why do companies invest so much in making the workplace a fun place to be?



92 IS BLOCKCHAIN THE NEXT IGAMING FRONTIER? Malta has been busy laying the groundwork for the regularisation of this technology – but what effect will it have on iGaming worldwide?




THE ISLAND THAT KEEPS ON GIVING From newly-graduated marketer to CCO of one of the top iGaming companies in the world, Malta has shaped some key milestones in Ronni Hartvig’s life.

The new Kindred office at Tigné’s The Centre has employees wanting for nothing – from the design to the location to the many day-to-day perks.


141 PAPARAZZI From the coolest parties to awesome company perks, a showcase of everything that makes the iGaming industry in Malta the best place to be.


126 A RESTORED VALLETTA BAKERY DELIVERS A HOME RUN This time we’re heading to Noni in Valletta, where there’s something wonderful in the air.


T 156 PRINT, PATTERN AND BEYOND Meet Sef Farrugia, the local designer behind the eponymous luxury silk accessories and ready-to-wear brand.





UPGRADING THE INDUSTRY I almost can’t believe it’s already the second issue of iGaming Capital. The first edition was greeted so warmly by the industry upon its publication that it’s clear that the magazine, which aims to provide a clear, informative, approachable and entertaining voice for the iGaming industry in Malta, has managed to fill an acutely-felt niche. We’re both proud and delighted to be doing this, and we hope to continue improving our offering from issue to issue. Furthermore, we’re especially pleased that this edition of iGaming Capital coincides with Malta Gaming Week, which promises to be the best one yet – more on that in one of our lead stories. In this issue, we’re diving deep into two subjects which have dominated the iGaming landscape for more than a year. The first one is the new Maltese iGaming law, which came into effect in August. It builds upon existing legislation, and will make the sector in Malta easier to operate in, more efficient for those who are already here, and more appealing for those who want to set up shop. It also aims to protect the industry from those who want to abuse it and use it for illicit purposes, by making the system more transparent, and crooks easier to identify and stop in their tracks. We’ve gained different perspectives on how the new law will achieve this, including that of Heathcliff Farrugia, Chairman of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), who gave iGaming Capital an exclusive interview. The other subject, is, of course, blockchain. Malta has made great strides to place itself at the forefront of this brave new world, with legislation that seeks to regulate Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) where many other countries still regard them as wild, uncharted territory. But what will it mean for the iGaming industry when this technology becomes more mainstream? Will it stifle the growth of iGaming in Malta, or will it encourage and open up new horizons and possibilities for it? Well, you’ll just have to read on to find out.

Marie-Claire PUBLISHER Content House Ltd


Content House Group Mallia Building, 3, Level 2, Triq in-Negozju, Mriehel BKR3000 Tel: 2132 0713

DEPUTY HEAD OF ADVERTISING SALES Jessica Spiteri Catania BRAND SALES EXECUTIVE Estelle Duca DIRECTOR OF SALES AND OPERATIONS Lindsey Napier CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND DESIGN Nicholas Cutajar COVER ILLUSTRATION Cover illustration by Nadine Noko, created exclusively for iGaming Capital.

Content House Ltd would like to thank all the protagonists, contributors, advertisers and the project team that have made this publication a success. Articles appearing in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of Content House Ltd. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publishers is strictly prohibited. iGaming Capital is distributed to all iGaming companies operating in Malta as well as to relevant business and commercial stakeholders in Malta, including all law firms, financial services companies and business consultancy firms, as well as to all local auditors, accountants and accountancy firms. It is also distributed to all Government ministries and departments, as well as to the waiting areas of all private and public hospitals. Beyond the free distribution network, iGaming Capital is sold at all leading newsagents around Malta. iGaming Capital is also distributed in London to major business and financial consultancy firms as well as to UK-based investment and venture capital firms.


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The revolutionary new Gaming Act introduced in Malta this year aims to encourage growth in online gaming, futureproof the industry, and eliminate the more undesirable elements within the sector. But what will the changes involve, how will they make life easier for operators, and how effective will they be at reducing the possibility of criminality in the industry? Marie-Claire Grima speaks to three legal professionals to find out.


alta’s long-awaited new gaming regulatory framework became effective on 1st August 2018, consolidating all the gambling-related statutes in one main law, the Gaming Act. To many in the industry, the new Gaming Act signifies the development and modernisation of Malta’s iGaming legislation, reflecting and encouraging more of the growth that Malta has seen within the industry over the past two decades, and eliminating some of the more undesirable elements that the industry may attract, such as organised crime and money-laundering. But what exactly do the changes entail, and how will they better the industry?

“The new law literally rethinks certain fundamental elements of gaming regulation, such as the convergence between online and land-based gambling, and the introduction of the risk-based approach to compliance and AML/CFT supervision, allowing the MGA to prioritise areas of higher risk,” says Heathcliff Farrugia, Chairman of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). “In addition, the new framework completely revisits areas such as consumer protection, advertising,


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“WE BELIEVE THAT WITH THE ADVENT OF MALTA’S NEW DLT AND CRYPTO LAWS, COUPLED WITH THE NEW GAMING ACT’S ACCEPTANCE IN PRINCIPLE OF CRYPTOS AND BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY, THERE WILL BE ADOPTION OF CRYPTOCURRENCIES, AND MORE SO A HIGH DEGREE OF USE OF DLT.” Reuben Portanier, Afilexion and responsible gaming, but also the licensing structure itself. The new law increased regulatory powers given to the MGA and applied a risk-based approach to compliance monitoring. Together with the implementation of the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, this shall continue to strengthen our constant efforts towards ensuring the industry is kept free from crime.” (Read the full interview with Mr Farrugia on pg52) “Malta’s first online gaming regulatory framework came into being in 2004,” says Reuben Portanier, founding Partner at Afilexion Alliance, and former CEO of the MGA. “At the time, it was the first fully-scaled regulatory framework in the EU. However, apart from being the first of a kind, it was also crafted in such a way as to resist the challenge of time. Notwithstanding, after 18 years, a fresh lease of life was required, which gave birth to the new Gaming Act 2018, and its subsidiary legislative framework.”

Mr Portanier says the beauty of the new Gaming Act is that it is built on the very same robust principles of its predecessor, whilst introducing key innovations that reaffirm Malta as the true capital for regulated gaming. “The positive effects were immediately felt by the existing licensees. The consolidation of the previous licence classes is allowing for consolidated compliance efforts, and thus less cost of compliance. It is also allowing B2C operators using B2B platforms to launch games faster, and thus, drastically improving their time to market. For the operators seeking a licence from Malta, the new regime presents a whole array of changes and innovations that are businessfriendly, but which at the same time allow the regulator for an even higher degree of supervision.” Dr Malcolm Falzon, Partner at Camilleri Preziosi, adds that the new Gaming Act – which ‘futureproofs’ the industry – introduced voluntary certification of material non-critical gaming supplies, permitting suppliers of such



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services to obtain certification for gaming purposes. It also replaced licence fees with ‘compliance contributions’. “The new licensing system is also expected to increase the efficiency of the MGA, both in terms of granting of licences and subsequent compliance oversight, particularly in terms of associated audits. Reduction in administrative burdens associated with licence renewals is also expected, given the increase in duration of an iGaming licence term to 10 years.” Dr Falzon also states that under the new Gaming Act, licensees can award prizes in cryptocurrencies, accept cryptocurrencies for the placing of bets and use blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT) in their operations. “The Act will allow technology convergence across different channels of game distribution, while providing legal certainty in the spheres of DLT, blockchain and cryptocurrencies,” he says. “The iGaming industry has always been inherently receptive towards innovation, and one would expect the industry to look towards wagering bets or winning prizes in crypto to become commonplace in the near future. However, we would expect the most significant transformation to materialise from the technology underlying cryptocurrencies, rather than from the increased use of cryptocurrencies themselves. An increase in fairness and transparency, more automation and less administrative effort and costs are expected from the rolling out of such technologies. Add to that the developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT), and one would come to the conclusion that novel tech will not just be a valuable tool for the future, but a requirement to remain competitive.”


references to blockchain are understood to refer solely to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, the applications of blockchain can be much wider than that, and having DLT applications applied for regulatory technology (regtech) and supervisory technology (suptech) are certainly developments that I would like to see over the next five years.” While the benefits that the new and improved law are undisputable, it will require significant efforts from the operators’ end in order to get in line. “The implementation and enforcement of rigorous prevention of money laundering procedures will certainly involve an adjustment to the internal procedures of some operators, to ensure that the registration of players, the detection of criminal activity and the escalation of the appropriate procedures after detection are duly complied with and documented by the gaming operator,” GVZH’s Dr Zammit states. “Whilst several larger operators have complied with very high standards of money laundering prevention procedures, other medium and smaller operators will need to undergo a deep revision of their processes to ensure that they do not undertake any such risks, which could even expose them to criminal sanctions – fines and imprisonment of the directors or other officers within the iGaming operator responsible for any wrong-doing, apart from administrative penalties.”

Dr Andrew J. Zammit, Managing Partner at GVZH Advocates, continues by saying that the MGA, which recently conducted a consultation process with the industry to better understand how a blockchain sandbox regulatory environment (see pg42) can be created, will be better able and empowered to regulate and enforce the new law more actively and effectively through the use of specialised DLT technologies. “Whilst for many people,

“Preparation, therefore, is key in ensuring a smooth transition,” Camilleri Preziosi’s Dr Falzon remarks. “One particular aspect we expect to prove challenging unless adequate preparations are put in place relates



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to the new key function roles to be implemented at various levels of the operation – training and sourcing the right skill pool are the obvious solutions to this particular challenge.” With so much hard work being put into ensuring that Malta stays at the top of the league in the iGaming world, is there anything that could challenge its reign? Afilexion’s Mr Portanier says that Malta has been one of the top dogs of the iGaming industry for almost two decades – “which in the online gaming sector is an extremely long period. It managed to keep its top spot as it never rested on its laurels. Challenges were always present over the past two decades, and will continue to be there in the future. However, if Malta maintains its principles and keeps on re-inventing itself, it will be able to address any challenges with confidence. We believe that with the advent of Malta’s new DLT and crypto laws, coupled with the new Gaming Act’s acceptance in principle of cryptos and blockchain technology, there will be adoption of cryptocurrencies, and more so a high degree of use of DLT.”

“I AM CONFIDENT THAT SERIOUS OPERATORS COULD CONTINUE TO RAISE THE REGULATORY BAR, TAKING A ZERO-TOLERANCE APPROACH TOWARDS FRAUD AND CRIME WITHIN THE INDUSTRY.” Dr Andrew J. Zammit, GVZH Advocates Naturally, even the most successful industry has its own set of challenges to face, and GVZH’s Dr Zammit outlines three principal threats that Malta’s iGaming industry could be looking at over the course of the next few years, notwithstanding the changes made to its regulatory regime. “First of all, there is a lack of skilled human resources to satisfy demand, particularly when other industries such as the blockchain initiatives being undertaken by the Government will require largely the same skill sets as those required in the iGaming industry. Second, there are the negative effects that could arise as a result of inadequate monitoring, enforcement and sanctioning of delinquent operators – a risk which can be addressed through the dedication of more specialised resources by the local law enforcement authorities. Lastly, at EU level, there’s a lack of willingness to harmonise minimum standards for operators targeting various EU markets, making the general European regulatory landscape somewhat fragmented, and creating a real barrier to entry for smaller operators being unable to cope with the compliance burden and consequently stifling innovations.”

However, while realistic about the challenges that Malta faces, Dr Zammit states that as an optimist, his outlook for the future of the iGaming industry in Malta is positive, particularly considering the positive changes that the new iGaming law is expected to yield. “When one looks at the iGaming industry today as compared to 15 years ago, a few years after I started professional practice, the industry is unrecognisable. Significant developments such as the acquisition of Tipico by one of the world’s larger venture capital funds – CVC Capital – in my view marked a huge vote of confidence, not only in the iGaming industry and the changes of perception of the industry on a wider level, but also a vote of confidence in Malta seeing that the target company was one of the early movers in the Maltese landscape. With the support of the Maltese authorities directed at strict enforcement of these new rules across the board, I am confident that serious operators could continue to raise the regulatory bar, taking a zero-tolerance approach towards fraud and crime within the industry.”


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â‚Ź1.1 billion


The amount generated by the The number of remote gaming licence gaming industry as a whole in applications received by the Malta terms of gross value added in 2017. Gaming Authority (MGA) in 2017.


The number of remote gaming companies licensed in Malta.


The increase in the number of remote gaming companies licensed by the MGA from 2016 to 2017, rising from 259 to 287.


The number of remote gaming licences under the MGA jurisdiction by the end of 2017.


The number of remote gaming licences issued by the MGA in 2017, to 112 operators.


The amount of players within the 25-34 age group, constituting the largest category of remote gaming players on MGA-regulated websites.


The 35-54 age group constitutes the second-largest proportion of remote gaming players’ demographic base.



Although men continue to make up the largest category of players, women players rose by nine percentage points to reach this figure in 2017.


The number of criminal probity assessments, focusing on individuals and companies in remote gaming and land-based activities, carried out in 2017.


The total number of self-exclusion requests from remote gaming websites licensed by the MGA amounted to just below this.


The number of full-time equivalent employees directly working with remote gaming companies licensed by the MGA.


The amount per annum that existing operators expect to increase their expenditure in Malta, over the next two years.

Source: Malta Gaming Authority Annual Report 2017






Since its inception in 2014, the Malta Gaming Week has brought together thousands of remote gaming professionals from all over the world to network, share knowledge and advance the industry. This year, the organisers hope to exceed expectations. Rebecca Anastasi speaks to SiGMA, KPMG and iGaming Academy to find out what the participants – and the sector – can expect from this year’s showcase.


he Malta Gaming Week, which has taken place every November since 2014, has become integral to the sector, easing collaborations, enabling educational initiatives and fostering relationships in a petri-dish of industry stakeholders, regulatory representatives and enthusiasts. This year, the fifth edition hopes to build on the momentum of previous years and will take place over three full days, between 28th and 30th November, at the Malta Fairs and Conventions Centre (MFCC) in Ta’ Qali. It will play host to sponsors, exhibitors, industry speakers and stakeholders, offering a packed line-up of events, designed and coordinated by the main organisers, SiGMA, in collaboration with partners such as KPMG and iGaming Academy. “I think this year’s edition will be the biggest yet,” says Eman Pulis, CEO of SiGMA. “Malta Gaming Week has gone from strength to strength. Since 2014, it has established itself as a staple on the global iGaming calendar and every year we have seen a marked increase in interest.” The goal is to bring people together and make connections, according to the CEO, who goes on to express his hope that the event will solidify and forge relationships, leading to further business opportunities. “Ultimately, we hope to start a conversation about some of the most important issues affecting the industry today,” Mr Pulis states. “We also hope people enjoy themselves and that everything runs smoothly!” This will be no mean feat. Apart from the main marketplace, being referred to as the SiGMA iGaming Show, the full line-up of events includes a StartUp Pitch, the SiGMA Careers Convention and the iGaming Academy Forum, a Networking Poker Tournament, the GPI European Poker Conference, as well as the KPMG ESummit – all events guaranteeing a packed few days, and more than enough to dive into. >





THE MARKETPLACE: SiGMA IGAMING SHOW AND STARTUP PITCH The main exhibition space – the SiGMA iGaming Show – is the epicentre of the three-day event. Sponsors, remote gaming stakeholders, and industry participants will be able to meet and mingle in this large market hall at the MFCC. “SiGMA has positioned itself at the cutting edge of a very competitive industry, making a name for itself as the go-to iGaming showcase in Malta. The show is the perfect avenue for delegates in the iGaming sphere to network and debate industry trends. If you’re looking to make lasting connections, our soldout expo floor is the place to be,” Mr Pulis explains. This year will, indeed, see more industry professionals and an unprecedented number of stakeholders come together: last year saw 200 exhibitors, 170 sponsors and 100 start-ups attend – staggering numbers which are set to be superseded in the 2018 edition. “This year SiGMA will welcome a record-breaking 12,500 attendees, host 400 sponsors and exhibitors, and provide a platform to 200 speakers. Because interest is so high we’ve had to add an extra day to our conference dates, and we’ve also increased our floor space at the MFCC, in order to accommodate the numbers,” Mr Pulis continues.

An integral part of the expo is SiGMA StartUp Pitch, which gives small companies the opportunity to introduce their ideas – in just three, quick-fire minutes – to potential mentors and investors, who will also quiz participants on their business plans. “SiGMA StartUp Pitch will connect 100 budding startups to 400 investors, offering these small companies the opportunity to battle it out in a shark tank-like environment for valuable exposure, funding and mentorship,” Mr Pulis explains. Prior to the pitch, all participants will be given branding visibility on the expo floor – consisting of a booth, printing facilities and furniture – as well as space on the official publications, website and social media channels. They will also be given access to SiGMA’s networking events. But, how will they be judged? The successful start-ups – those which will reach the final for an opportunity to gain solid investment and exclusive mentorship – are those that are in it for the long haul. “Judges will be keeping an eye out for start-ups that show creativity and innovation in their approach, pitching solid projects that tick all the boxes when it comes to quality,” Mr Pulis emphasises.



ADVANCING CAREERS: SIGMA CAREERS CONVENTION AND IGAMING ACADEMY FORUM Opening the doors to opportunity is the intention of the event, and this has become of utmost importance in the current climate, according to the CEO. The explosion in gaming companies setting up shop on the island has resulted in an increasing need to fill job positions, leading a multitude of remote gaming businesses to invest heavily in recruitment. “The iGaming industry in Malta has exploded over the last few years, bringing with it a thirst for talent. It’s no secret that Malta has found it challenging to meet this unprecedented growth with quality human resources, which is why it is vital for the industry to tackle this problem head on,” Mr Pulis states. To this end, the SiGMA Careers Convention, taking place within the umbrella event, was established to connect job-seekers with employers in the sector and will consist of a conference covering three main topics – the importance of training, recruitment trends and employee retention – with each panel being chaired by experts in the field. This will provide the opportunity for “leaders in this sphere to tackle the most pertinent issues through a series of panel discussions and networking,” according to Mr Pulis, who also stresses that the talks will attract graduates and connect them to some of the best employers in the industry. The goal is to offer qualified candidates “the chance to forge lasting long-term relationships through our networking opportunities,” and employers an arena in which they can start the headhunting process.

Opening the doors to further employment chances is also the aim of the iGaming Education Forum which will bring together iGaming companies, from around the globe, and individuals new to the industry, to participate in intensive workshops. “Our conferences and workshops all offer a wide range of industry-relevant topics, from regulatory issues to the finer points of GDPR, blockchain and DLT. There’s also a focus on emerging markets and digital innovation outside of Europe, as well as a look at creative AI,” Mr Pulis explains. In line with the international nature of the industry, the forum will have “a worldwide focus” with many of its sessions reflecting “a perspective that spans sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Asia, and US markets.”

SiGMA CEO, Eman Pulis

This is corroborated by James Lephew, Senior Compliance Content Manager at iGaming Academy, a partner organisation for the event, who describes SiGMA as “a great opportunity to speak directly to the global industry, obtain feedback, present new iGA products, and discover new partnerships.” He refers to the compliance briefing which will take place during the forum, and which will help elucidate topics central to the business of iGaming: GDPR, gaming law and the new Gaming Act, responsible gaming, and corporate social responsibility.


“The compliance briefing will give participants a taste of face-to-face training from our experts at iGA; they will have the opportunity to be trained on these specific topics and ask questions to industry leaders,” Mr Lephew states. The participation of iGaming Academy in SiGMA, according to the Senior Compliance Content Manager, is also part of the entity’s commitment to the industry, and to supporting “all stakeholders, and future employees, in navigating their compliance challenges, by offering them a variety of training opportunities.”

James Lephew, iGaming Academy





BUILDING COLLABORATIONS: GPI EUROPEAN POKER CONFERENCE AND NETWORKING POKER TOURNAMENT Malta Gaming Week will also provide a space for the games themselves to take centre stage. The GPI European Poker Conference is such a space: here, the European poker community – consisting of the media, the event organisers and industry players – gather to reflect upon the forecast for the next few years, current trends as well as player profiles. “This is a chance for poker executives and stakeholders to network and do business with the rest of the iGaming industry, where they can amalgamate and share their future vision. SiGMA gives GPI a broader reach, and a platform to connect the live and online poker industry,” SiGMA’s Mr Pulis explains.

This service includes fostering an environment within which delegates at SiGMA can converse, build bridges across jurisdictions, and experience new products and services. “Throughout this week, industry stakeholders can benefit from KPMG’s industry insight, global resources and reputation for quality,” Mr Mifsud stresses. “Our global gaming network strategically positions us to entice key influencers to experience and benefit from Malta Gaming Week.”

Delegates will have the opportunity to participate in a game of poker themselves, in the annual Networking Poker Tournament. This delegate-favourite – which will take place on the first evening and has, in the past, attracted a crowd of over 600 – will enable participants to “break the ice in a friendly and relaxed environment.” It is the “ideal chance for delegates to shake off their jet lag and get into the swing of things,” Mr Pulis asserts.

Indeed, with attendance projected to be high, the knock-on effect of these few days in November could be felt in the industry for a long time to come.

BEFORE IT ALL KICKS OFF: THE KPMG ESUMMIT One day before SiGMA, the opening act comes in the form of the KPMG Malta eSummit, a full-day conference, which has previously attracted over 500 delegates as well as speakers and panellists from across the globe. Independently organised by the local outfit of the international audit firm, the event is invite-only, “to ensure the highest calibre of delegates and decision-makers.” Russell Mifsud, Associate Director for Gaming at KPMG Malta, outlines the agenda for the conference which will bring together stakeholders to discuss “Malta’s future, impending global changes, AI, AML, social responsibility, regulatory impacts, the rise of Latin America, the re-opening of the US market, blockchain, opportunities and risks, robotic process automation, advanced data analytics, eSports growth, and more.” This, according to the Associate Director, is in line with KPMG Malta’s commitment to “promoting the highest quality of professional standards and practices across all of our engagements,” and the central role the firm has played within the gaming sector. “We have developed a strong team of experts to service some of the larger and more renowned gaming operators that are licensed in Malta,” Mr Mifsud explains. “On a macro level, KPMG’s possession of a Global Gaming Team extends our role within the industry and the range of services that we can offer to our clients. By combining our gaming industry expertise from various gaming hubs across the world, we are in a position to offer a service across functional and geographical boundaries.”

For tickets and more information, including a list of exhibitors and a detailed agenda, visit and



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BOOMERANGING In some industries, going from job to job and then returning to your original employer might be frowned upon, but not in iGaming. As Jo Caruana discovers, the practice is often even encouraged – here are the reasons why.


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“IN OUR WORLD, BOOMERANG EMPLOYEES ARE ALSO KNOWN AS ‘COMEBACK KIDS’.” Claudia Ginex is Head of HR at Gaming Innovation Group (GiG), a tech company employing over 700 people. She explains that successful boomeranging stems from keeping doors open. “In our world, boomerang employees are also known as ‘comeback kids’; they are basically employees that leave the organisation on good terms, only to make a triumphant return and blow everyone away with the knowledge and expertise they’ve gained since. Boomerangs can bring exceptional value to a company’s growth. They know the culture, the products, and they are familiar with the overall vibe of the organisation. The relationship can be revamped quickly and they can be back to 100 per cent productivity and engagement in no time. Employers can also benefit greatly from the employee’s interim experiences, including their increased business network, technical knowledge and customer relationships. Getting a boomerang employee is also a great sign of loyalty and trust in the company and, consequently, is an amazing opportunity for employer branding and retention strategies. From the employee point of view, coming back to a former employer has great benefits as well, as it means returning to a culture they know and appreciating new angles that they hadn’t noticed before. Plus they’ll have more experiences (good or bad) to compare it to. And of course, this results in a happy camper who feels part of the team and at home in the company, while understanding its vision and aspirations.

ERANG TIP: CLAUDIA’S BOOM e ared about th “Don’t be sc ke Ma . on en om en boomeranging ph d always keep in the most of it an s ployee that come mind that an em ing az am of n sig back is a great and of a peoplere ltu cu y an mp co ion. Believe in your focused organisat d their potential, an employees and in e!” ar ey th if always be happy

Yes, there are challenges – mainly related to the off-boarding or exit process, and how best to handle the resignation of a key employee in the organisation. HR professionals should focus on the reasons for leaving instead of the leaving process itself. The golden rule should be: leave all the possible future opportunities open, don’t burn any bridges and wish your people the best for their career aspirations, as they could well come back happier in the future, and bring their value on board as company ambassadors when they do!” >


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“IN MALTA ESPECIALLY, IT OFTEN FEELS LIKE EVERYBODY KNOWS EVERYBODY WITHIN THE INDUSTRY.” Lena Nordin is Chief HR Officer of the Betsson Group, one of the largest companies within the European iGaming industry. Her message: if you’ve been part of the Betsson Malta story over the past 14 years and would like to return, get in touch! “The iGaming industry is booming and, although it’s growing by the day, it still feels like a close-knit society. In Malta especially, it often feels like everybody knows everybody within the industry. Some of the people working in gaming have been around since the early days, even before the industry went online. Betsson has a history that goes back 55 years: from a single slot machine to the global online business we are today. We all know that employee turnover costs businesses a lot of resources – be it time, productivity or money. Even with strong recruitment and retention initiatives, some turnover is inevitable and we all have to respect when one of the top talents leaves for greener pastures. And this leads us to the nickname ‘boomerang employees’, given to those team members who leave but then, later, want to return. It’s a concept that is increasing considerably, especially in industries that are still somewhat close-knit, like the gaming industry in Malta. At Betsson, we’re a bit of a talent factory. We have a knack for finding and recruiting really good people. Being as big as we are, we can offer great career progression within the company, but it’s completely normal that, at some point, people may want to broaden their horizons. Having the number of boomerangs that we do shows that this is nothing to be afraid of. On the contrary, it is something to cherish. The grass may seem to be greener elsewhere, but being away from Betsson for a while can also make you appreciate our company and its many advantages even more.

Boomeranging can be an advantage for both the employee and the employer, because the employee is already familiar with the organisation and can hit the ground running on their return, so to speak. As a returnee you’d probably recognise the company culture and leadership style, as well as some tools and processes. This means that on-boarding a former employee is less expensive and time-consuming than a brand-new employee, and it also ensures that there is a fit between the employee and the company. Another advantage is that boomerangs often bring back fresh ideas, new industry skills and a larger network of contacts. Meanwhile, one of the biggest – albeit indirect – benefits of rehiring a former employee is that it shows company loyalty. It’s proof to the boomerang’s colleagues that, while the grass may appear greener on the other side, it’s often not. But of course, there are challenges too. First of all, not all former employees are good re-hires, especially if things ended badly the first time around. In these instances, both parties should have a proper conversation about it and decide whether it’s best for both to proceed or not. Moreover, if the company culture in which you work does not put the experience of its employees first and sees them as individuals with their own specific needs and wants, then they’ll probably struggle to create a good environment for boomerangs. We don’t have that problem since we know that we offer ample opportunities for a person to grow and develop professionally with us. This shows, not least in the high number of internal recruitments we do for our open positions.

G TIP: on LENA’S BOOMERAN tters. You should focus your experience that ma is n it , tha ors do re mo ing “As an employee en t benefits you, op tha y wa a in you eer ny car pa r building you Returning to a com t to burn any bridges. the you close and trying no ence, as you can enjoy eri exp ive be a very posit ing be at Th es. gu lea worked for before can col ct with former ne on rec d an e nt lov me we on s familiar envir e of the reason aced industry; that’s on t-p y fas ma a is ers ng oth mi ny iGa said, e you left, ma be the same as befor ute trib con d an w gro it. Some things may ities to e around, new possibil So, have changed. This tim there for the taking. be l wil d an , you for up en op y ma ess to busin ng for the ride!” buckle up and come alo

At Betsson we believe that great people know great people. Some 22 per cent of our hires over the past 11 months were actually referred to us by Betssonites. When you love the place you work, it’s no wonder that you want to recommend it to a friend or former colleague. In fact, whether you’ve worked for Betsson in the past or know someone who would fit in well, we’d love to hear from you.” >


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“THERE IS A SLEW OF BENEFITS TO BE ENJOYED WHEN AN EMPLOYEE RETURNS TO A COMPANY.” Ben Pace Lehner is Director of the Broadwing Job Placement Agency, a company with an excellent reputation for placing people within the iGaming and tech industries. His clients have mixed opinions on boomeranging.

“Boomeranging has a lot to do with personal development; sometimes people leave because they want a different job or a salary boost, others make the change because they want to travel or further their education before returning to their original employer. Occasionally, employees are also let go because the company can’t afford them anymore, and are then hired again when it can. In my experience, it is hard to say whether boomeranging is frowned upon or encouraged as this varies a lot between organisations, between departments, and even between specific roles within the same company. We at Broadwing confirmed this by reaching out to different HR managers and personnel within some of the bigger companies in the industry, and found it often came down to the personal preferences of senior and HR management.

ERANG TIP: ployee, BEN’S BOOM ployer or an em t to em an re u’ yo “Whether your utmos s. Always do ge g id br rn bu don’t aintain existin terms and m ur od yo go n on he e w av le ow You never kn ployee may em relationships. or ue ag lle co er, future and, in former employ e th in ce to you ’re an st si as of be returning, they an employee and e m co el w the event of m receive a war d more likely to ny culture an to the compa in ck ba ht rig fit community.”

That said, there is a slew of benefits to be enjoyed when an employee returns to a company after a period of absence. The first and most obvious is that they are already accustomed to the company culture and operations, so they require a much shorter orientation and on-boarding process. This allows them to hit the ground running – relying on their previous experience and connections, while adding a new perspective and more knowledge gained in their time away. This effect also helps bolster the image of the company, as it is often a sign of a strong internal culture, good working conditions and a company that employees can be proud to work for. On the flip side, however, while the on-boarding of a former employee is usually a good experience, it may also cause distrust and uncertainty between co-workers – especially if their previous departure was sudden and burdensome to the other people in their departments. Beyond that, current employees may feel alienated if the person who returned did so on a better salary or in a higher position. But this can all usually be tackled by the employer in advance and handled properly. In short, if things are properly managed on both sides, then boomeranging can be mutually beneficial.”


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WHAT COULD IT REVEAL? The Malta Gaming Authority’s recent launch of a sandbox closed testing environment for the adoption of cryptocurrency on the island promises to encourage an understanding of the technology’s implications. Rebecca Anastasi speaks to Dr Ian Gauci, Partner responsible for communications, media and technology within GTG Advocates, and Dr Jonathan Galea from Blockchain Advisory Ltd about what can be expected.


arly in October, at Malta’s Delta Summit, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) launched its sandbox for distributed ledger technology (DLT), which will create a space in which cryptocurrency can operate securely in a restricted environment, allowing for the safe experimentation of technology. When announcing the sandbox, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri emphasised the Authority’s commitment to building up expertise, regulatory oversight and understanding the implications of DLT applications within the gaming sector. “The Authority is keen to embrace the technology and is not shying away from understanding the rise of DLT technology, with the aim of boosting economic innovation within a regulated environment,” Mr Schembri said during the event. Dr Ian Gauci, the Partner responsible for communications, media and technology within GTG Advocates, notes the positive aspects of sandbox testing, which he says, “is beneficial from several angles, if conducted within a pre-determined, transparent and controlled environment.” He stresses the benefits of using a live, controlled testing environment in this regard. “Having an idea of how cryptocurrencies in the gaming sphere would perform, prior to enacting legislation, with clear entry criteria as well as possible


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exit outcomes, will cement more certainty,” he states. “It will also identify areas which need to be tackled before enacting any laws, licences or rules of engagement.” However, Dr Gauci also directs attention towards potential negative elements, emphasising the importance of establishing stringent criteria when conducting the test, stating that the “sandbox rules should also be pre-determined with clear entry and exit objectives,” in order to uphold “transparency and certainty.” Communication with stakeholders is also vital, in his view. “Unless the outcomes of the sandbox environment are shared with all the industry, and not only those operators who are participating in the sandbox, the same exercise which was meant to create certainty and transparency could end up giving an unfair advantage to participants,” he notes. He stresses the

Dr Ian Gauci, GTG Advocates



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significance of also sharing information with “other authorities and industries that are keen to embrace the use of cryptocurrencies” in order to retain a more participative involvement in the industry. If done well, the results of the sandbox could be productive, according to Dr Gauci, since MGA would be able to “assess which cryptocurrencies are considered optimal and appropriate for operators to use on their platforms and the ones which, because of limitations or intrinsic characteristics, are not.” This is essential in the fight for the prevention of money laundering, he continues. “The testing environment could indicate usage patterns, optimal conditions for the usage of crypto-technology, as well as the benefits, limitations and possible ways to make its use safer and more widespread.” With current attention focused on the risks of money laundering, especially within the blockchain, crypto and fintech sectors, the sandbox could disclose some uncomfortable truths, with the main risks arising from its traceability and anonymity, according to Dr Gauci. “Cryptocurrencies which are not anti-money laundering (AML) compliant, and which are thus totally anonymous, prone to the use of mixers and ring signatures, or which will not allow the users to comply with their legal obligations, pose a very serious threat to the token economy and to the acceptance and lawful mass adoption of the technology,” Dr Gauci emphasises.


There are other risks to be cognisant of, including the use of ‘wallets’, when winnings are transferred to a “wallet which does not belong to the subscriber who had originally won the bet or the game.” To mitigate against the risk this poses, and the potential for money laundering, Dr Gauci advocates the use of a system of pre-identification and ownership, which would require the operator to ascertain that these “are being made from and to the same wallet in order to prevent money laundering or the funding of any other illicit activities.” He refers to the MGA’s proposal to tackle the issue by “allowing wallets to be selfhosted by the player, or held with a custodian wallet provider,” stating that, in this proposition “only wallets whose address is specifically tied to the individual player shall be admissible for use in the gaming ecosystem.”

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Yet, regulations come at a high cost and there needs to be a concrete assessment of the “real issues and the effect and benefit of any regulation” prior to ratification, Dr Gauci says. He notes that this process has already been started through the creation of a framework for virtual financial assets (VFA) in Malta, which also includes AML and know-your-client (KYC) provisions, and which, Dr Gauci hopes, will also cater for the cryptosphere. “But, in my view this will also be short-lived as we are trying to intervene with a static instrument – the law – in a domain which is technologically-advanced, versatile and highly dynamic.” The solution, in his view, is “a fusion between law and technology” in which DLT “will be an active and dynamic tool which can block illegal and irregular activity at inception via the use of smart contracts and, possibly, AI.” This will enable the sectors and stakeholders concerned to embrace “the dynamic characteristics of this new realm we are facing today.” Some of these sentiments are also echoed by Dr Jonathan Galea, Managing Director of Blockchain Advisory Ltd, an entity which assists numerous blockchain-based and cryptocurrency-related projects. “The cryptocurrency sandbox will allow for the full monitoring and scrutiny of the behaviour of licensees utilising cryptocurrencies for their operations, so as to mitigate any risks and ensure the best running of such operations,” Dr Galea says. While decrying the “strict limits imposed on the amounts that can be paid in cryptocurrency by each player during the sandbox period,” Dr Galea highlights his belief that the testing environment “will bring out the main benefits of the use of cryptocurrencies in the iGaming industry.” Indeed, Dr Galea lauds the benefits he sees in the adoption of cryptocurrency for the iGaming sector. “The positives include faster and more transparent settlement of payments, as well as full tracking capabilities of all transactions on a public ledger,” he states, adding that the only negative is that “the technology and supporting infrastructures are still in their infancy.” While he acknowledges the need for regulations on AML, he stresses that, in his view, “money laundering risks are mostly pertinent to anonymous cryptocurrencies such as Zcash, Monero and Dash. Transactions on other cryptocurrency networks are fully traceable and therefore present a benefit, rather than a risk.” He also notes that any other exposures are mainly associated with “the financial stability of any accepted cryptocurrencies,” going on to say that he understands “it is therefore being suggested that only those currencies with an adequate market capitulation should be accepted as a means of payment.” For Dr Galea, the use of cryptocurrency is an inherently positive development, one “which would solve various issues such as chargebacks, transparency of pay-outs, and provably fair games through the use of smart contracts.”




QUESTIONS FOR HEATHCLIFF FARRUGIA The CEO of the Malta Gaming Authority, Heathcliff Farrugia, talks about the dynamism of the iGaming industry, the appeal of Malta’s robust regulatory framework, and the importance of preparing the next generation of tech workers.


hen the former CEO of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) Joseph Cuschieri left his position this year to head the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), he left behind some rather large shoes to fill. But his successor, Heathcliff Farrugia, who has just completed his first six months as CEO of the MGA, has been groomed to fulfil this role for quite some time now, and he appears to be more than ready to take the challenge on.


After spending the largest part of his career in the telecoms industry, specifically with Vodafone Malta – where his predecessor at the MGA also held key roles – Mr Farrugia joined the Gaming Authority in 2014 in the role of Chief Operations Officer. As COO, he was a central figure in the transformation process undertaken by the Authority; in fact, it was a position he held for two years until his appointment as Chief Regulatory Officer in 2016. Mr Farrugia was also a


member of the Supervisory Council, and co-chaired the Fit and Proper Committee, entrusted with the assessment of the fit and properness of individuals and companies applying for a MGA licence. iGaming Capital caught up with him to find out more about what it’s like to be the head of the regulating body for the industry that’s generating more than 12 per cent of Malta’s GDP every year. 1. It has been six months since you were appointed CEO of the Malta Gaming Authority. How would you sum up the experience so far? The first months were challenging but also very interesting. Apart from taking on the new position, I had to make sure the MGA remained focused on the introduction of the new gaming law. The latter was by far the most ambitious project the Authority has ever embarked upon in recent years.



2. Can you tell us exactly what your position entails? Is there a typical day on the job at the MGA, or is it always different? As the Chief Executive Officer, my primary responsibility is to ensure that the MGA has the right capacity and resources to adequately regulate the wide array of gambling business licensed by it. It is also my job to be forward-thinking and prepare for future regulatory challenges, devising projects and strategies that will bear fruit in several years’ time. 3. What are the most rewarding aspects of heading the MGA, and what are the most challenging ones? Heading such a prolific regulator, both at a local and an international level is extremely rewarding. The fact that the industry is so dynamic, and that I’m working together with very professional and passionate employees gives me a great deal of job satisfaction. On the other hand, the most challenging task for a regulator is always that of keeping up with the pace of the industry that they are tasked with. 4. Figures released in the Annual Report of the MGA highlight the strategic importance of the iGaming industry in Malta – essentially the industry is contributing €1.2 billion a year, equivalent to over €3 million per day. Do you think that we have seen the peak of the growth, or are you anticipating significant further growth in the industry in the months and years to come? The iGaming industry has experienced year-on-year growth practically across all Europe, and indications are that this trend will continue. We can only expect the same in Malta. This puts more pressure on regulators to ensure that adequate controls are in place. >



5. This year it was announced that Bet365 made a massive investment in Malta, and intends to significantly increase its operations and amount of employees in Malta. What are your views on this major investment? Do you see it as a show of confidence in our jurisdiction? It is always positive to see the names of reputable gaming operators associated with the Maltese jurisdiction. Such operators, and other reputable ones which have been in our country for years, are testament to our robust regulatory framework. 6. Is there interest from other industry giants seeking to relocate or to expand their current operations in Malta? The MGA is not in a position to comment on the business plans of operators. However, once again with reference to the benefits of our strong regulatory framework, I am aware that a number of operators that are already present in Malta have recently relocated to new and bigger offices, in order to cater for their growing business needs.

7. Let’s talk about the new iGaming law. It’s expected to result in a complete overhaul of the industry in Malta. What do you think the main effects will be, and how long will it take before a difference starts to be witnessed? The new Gaming Act came into force on 1st August and the impact of the new law started being felt immediately upon its introduction. The new law literally rethinks certain fundamental elements of gaming regulation, such as the convergence between online and land-based gambling, and the introduction of the risk-based approach to compliance and AML/CFT supervision, allowing the MGA to prioritise areas of higher risk. In addition, the new framework completely re-visits areas such as consumer protection, advertising and responsible gaming, but also the licensing structure itself, reducing duplicate checks existent within the previous framework. Areas of key importance also include monitoring and reporting of suspicious betting, the segmentation of the role of the Key Official into various functions, and increased enforcement and investigative powers for the MGA. 8. How will this help eliminate the more undesirable elements within the iGaming industry? The new law increased regulatory powers given to the MGA and applied a risk-based approach to compliance monitoring. The MGA now has the power to appoint an administrator for operations in distress, and to perform mystery shopping exercises. Together with the implementation of the 4th AntiMoney Laundering Directive, this shall continue to strengthen our constant efforts towards ensuring the industry is kept free from crime. >




9. The MGA issued a set of criteria for public consultation for the establishment of a sandboxed live environment for cryptocurrency and DLT adoption within the online gaming sector. What is the purpose of this sandbox framework, and what do you think will be the outcome of this? The MGA’s strategic mission is to be at the forefront of gaming regulation whilst embracing innovation. This, coupled with the rapid rise in interest from gaming operators to incorporate virtual financial assets (VFA) and distributed ledger technology (DLT) into their operations, were the main drivers behind the proactive approach taken by the Authority to issue a sandbox framework for the use of these technologies within a controlled regulatory environment. This framework is intended as a live document and will therefore be subject to feedback and potential updates during its duration, whilst also keeping in consideration any technological or regulatory developments which may occur. The MGA envisages that this framework will run until end of October 2019, although its extension, both partially or wholly, could be a possibility. 10. How do you think blockchain and DLT will reshape the iGaming industry in Malta, and on a wider, global scale? It is still premature to assess the potential impact of such a revolutionary technology on the iGaming industry. What we know for sure is that there is considerable interest, and that a number of iGaming operators are seriously looking at being early adopters.

11. Various people in the iGaming industry as well as the blockchain sphere believe that eventually, the cryptocurrency industry in Malta can overtake that of the iGaming industry in terms of contribution to GDP, employment figures and overall stature in the country. Do you agree? Again, it is still very premature to comment on this. However, the efforts Malta is making on the DLT stage are starting to yield the expected results. 12. Cryptocurrency and DLT operators, and iGaming companies require employees with similar skill sets. Existing operators in the iGaming industry are worried that the number of cryptocurrency companies setting up in Malta will continue to add fuel to the fire in the hiring wars. What are your thoughts on this? All industries nowadays need tech people. Technology is everywhere, in everything that we do, and hence there will always be a huge demand for such talent. Malta is producing a lot of local talent; however, with the current pace of these industries, coupled with others like the financial services sector, demand will most probably keep exceeding supply. 13. What role does/can the MGA play in bettering the situation for both sectors? As a country we need to continue joining forces between sector stakeholders and educational institutions, similar to the approach adopted by the MGA and MCAST to create the European Gaming Institute of Malta (EGIM), to ensure that more of our students are adequately prepared to embrace the challenges and opportunities provided by these new technologies. 14. Besides the new iGaming law, and the increasingly mainstream use of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, what are the main factors that you think will play a role in how Malta’s iGaming industry continues to progress? In your opinion, what must be done to ensure that Malta remains a place where iGaming companies want to take their business? Compliance is a key determining factor in the industry’s stability. Compliance upholds reputation, and consequently, it is the key for Malta to retain its status as an attractive hub for iGaming companies. 15. What are the upcoming priorities for the MGA? Can you tell us about any other important projects in the pipeline? Currently, the implementation of the new law, which came into force on 1st August this year, remains the key priority for the MGA. This is followed by our plans related to DLT and cryptocurrencies, and also by our ambitious plans to issue a consultation document for a unified selfexclusion system, giving the possibility to players to selfexclude from all licensed operators. Other important projects include the implementation of an Enhanced Automated Monitoring Platform for land-based operators, the development of new technical standards and the continued implementation of our supervisory plan for AML/CFT.



WORK HARD, PLAY HARD Photo by Frank Salt Real Estate


From fireman poles and ping pong tables to PlayStations and AstroTurf, workspaces within the iGaming industry are legendary – so much so that other industries keen on getting a piece of the action are taking note. But what is it that makes these offices special, and why do they invest so much in making the workplace a fun place to be? Sarah Micallef discovers what’s at the top of the agenda for iGaming companies looking for new office space.


ith thousands of employees relocating to our sunny island to join Malta’s rapidly-growing iGaming industry, it comes as no surprise that expectations are high. But that doesn’t end with the sparkling seas, blue skies, and Mediterranean lifestyle beyond their office doors – it starts right there, within their workspace.

from home that is oftentimes a whole lot more fun! “Operators in this industry are mainly after wide open spaces which are filled with natural light,” explains Rita Schembri, Commercial Property Division Manager at Frank Salt Real Estate. “They want a space that can accommodate plenty of chillout areas, balconies and terraces, and is ideally situated in pleasing surroundings. They want their employees to be able to socialise with their colleagues in an

iGaming companies excel at making the workspace a place which their employees enjoy spending time in – a home away





informal way around the office and then go on to enjoy themselves after hours too, with activities such as shopping, dining or after-work drinks.” Michaela Tabone, Assistant Regional Letting Manager at RE/MAX Malta is in agreement, affirming that companies within the iGaming sector generally “require an open-plan layout and a space that offers plenty of natural light,” and differ from ‘normal’ offices in that they strive to make their work environment a fun one. “They ensure that the recreational area for their staff is sizeable, allowing them to break and unwind in a ‘cool’ environment,” she says. “We have seen some offices being equipped with ping-pong tables, billiard tables, PlayStations and more.”

And they’re so popular among employees that as time goes by, the gap between the ‘regular’ office that has become the norm across other industries and these new spaces is being bridged. Indeed, “employers from other industries are very much buying into the model of providing a pleasant environment for their staff,” explains Ms Schembri, maintaining that staff retention is a priority across all industries, and this model contributes towards the happiness of employees. >


Photos by RE/MAX Malta




So it’s no surprise, then, that such companies invest so much in making the workplace a fun place to be. “They invest heavily in order to make their workspace attractive – the cooler and more luxurious the office, the easier it becomes when recruiting new staff,” Ms Tabone affirms. “It is a well-known fact that the happier your employees are, the more motivated they are to work and give results,” continues Ms Schembri. “Their working environment contributes immensely to this happiness and state of well-being,” she adds, pointing to Google’s offices which are globally renowned for their creativity and quirkiness. “Google employs more than 88,000 people from around the world and their outstanding talent management aimed at nurturing innovation has won them several awards. Of course, not everybody has a Google budget, but we are seeing an increasing trend in company stakeholders hiring top designers and project managers to ensure their offices are of the highest standard,” she maintains. And as the sector gets even larger, I ask, are demands changing? According to Ms Tabone, RE/MAX Malta are now receiving a number of requests for offices with outdoor space and views, indicating that the focus is not just what’s happening inside the office, but what’s outside too. “In fact, a number of new developments have now started to take these requests into consideration by making their buildings more attractive to the current market trend,” she says. Ms Schembri also points out a change in location as a developing trend within the sector. “We have seen a shift over the years – many of the more established companies have

Photo by RE/MAX Malta


grown in size to such an extent that they have opted to set up their offices in central areas as opposed to coastal areas. Larger spaces are hard to come by in typical coastal localities such as Sliema, St Julian’s or Ta’ Xbiex, and central areas also tend to be a cheaper option,” she explains. Additionally, she says, several companies have purchased their own premises, as opposed to leasing them, in order to be able to design and customise them to their needs. And with such high demand for premium office space that meets these companies’ criteria, the greatest challenges, they agree, are to do with supply. “Location is always a big problem,” says Ms Tabone, explaining that traditionally, most companies within the sector insist on remaining located around the more sought-after areas of Sliema and St Julian’s. “When they are looking for very large spaces, their demands cannot always be met,” she posits, adding that several companies have adopted a novel approach to




ensure that their needs are met. “With a number of new developments having come on the market in the last couple of years, the bigger companies are renting more space than they actually require, and subleasing the space until it is required.” Another approach is of course looking elsewhere, and as time goes by, it is becoming a more popular tactic. Echoing Ms Tabone’s sentiments that substantially-sized offices are very rare in areas which remain popular such as Sliema or St Julian’s, Ms Schembri explains that while developers are aware of this lack of space and continue to plan for this demand (with many projected developments in the pipeline), others are

Photos by RE/MAX Malta


looking inland to provide ample open-plan offices, not least because it is less costly to source central land, which ultimately allows them to offer cost-effective leasing rates. “iGaming companies also demand locations that provide suitable accommodation for their people. They want short commutes, easy accessibility to shops, restaurants and public transport; in short, they want their employees to be comfortable and enjoy a better quality of life,” she concludes.

Michaela Tabone, RE/MAX Malta

Whatever the approach they choose to adopt, it seems clear that they’re willing to give their all to make it happen!


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E&V SARA GRECH – A TAILORED RANGE OF REAL ESTATE SERVICES Engel & Völkers Sara Grech is a luxury real estate agency that specialises in exclusive properties in Malta. With more than 30 years’ experience, we are one of Malta’s most successful real estate agencies. Since our co-branding with Engel & Völkers in 2012, we consolidated our market position as prime real estate agents in high-end property and opened our business opportunities to endless possibilities. Based in over 700 locations in total, E&V offers both private and institutional clients a professionallytailored range of services. Leasing, sales consultancy and valuations form the core competences of the staff of more than 10,000 employees. We can also guide you through to our aviation advisors, who deliver trusted aviation expertise, whether to help you charter a plane for a single trip, or negotiate a long-term lease or aircraft purchase and adjacent consultancy.

Furthermore, the yachting division of Engel & Völkers, one of the leading names in the luxury market for over 40 years, offers luxury yachts for sale in the Mediterranean and beyond, as well as luxury yacht charter, new build construction, refits and berth services. INNOVATION This year, we are delighted to have introduced to our clients, pioneering novelties such as the owners web app and virtual reality tours for our Exclusive listings. The owners web app gives you the possibility of following the sale of your property live – this means that you can track the activities of your personal real estate agent step-by-step, leading to the successful sale of your property. Meanwhile, with the virtual reality tour of our exclusive properties, clients can view a particular property in the comfort of their home, see all the features of the property in a 360° mode, and save precious time. Should you require more information, do get in touch via the contact details below. We would like to hear from you. E&V Sara Grech, Triq in-Negozju, Mriehel. T: 2347 0000; E:;






A Chief Operating Officer’s role involves making sure people are working on the right things at the right time, cultivating talent and adding value to all stakeholders. Eduardo dos Remedios, COO at performance marketing company Blexr, talks Marie-Claire Grima through the product development process, what makes Blexr unique, and the company’s exciting upcoming plans.


duardo dos Remedios’s career has taken him from Gibraltar to Montenegro to Malta, working in both technology and product roles with large established operators, as well as smaller companies with a start-up culture. He joined Blexr in the summer of 2017 as Head of Product Operations and was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in February 2018. “I want to build a truly Lean enterprise and to ensure that Agile competencies are enhanced and that Blexr builds the right muscle memory to operate in a Lean fashion. This appealed to the two owners of the company, who were looking for someone to lead them on their journey, someone who had the


experience, passion and creativity required. Most importantly, they wanted someone who was peoplefocused.” He fit the bill perfectly. “At Blexr, I make sure people are working on the right things at the right time, and that value is being created for our staff, customers, partners – and our owners – in a sustainable way,” Mr dos Remedios says. “I also need to make sure our teams have a high level of autonomy, but at the same time are in tune with our objectives. We like to bake insight, innovation and quality into the way we work. Last but not least is our need to find, develop and retain top talent. Blexr is a place where people can work hard, learn and have fun along the way. I

Photo by Inigo Taylor



believe that getting our staff to push themselves and succeed is when the magic happens. I enjoy witnessing that magic.” To support this, Blexr is working on an exciting internal communications initiative. “One of the outcomes will be the publication of the Blexr Book of Culture. This manual will belong to our staff, it will help them understand our values and what we believe in. It’ll make them feel welcomed, engaged and part of the greater community – and that’s the Blexr way.” Mr dos Remedios explains that Blexr has its own technology platform, “one we can refine and improve very quickly without relying on thirdparty vendors. The entire company, from finance to HR to design to development, has been trained to implement the SAFe framework, as part of our Agile transformation.” He says that adopting a Lean-Agile methodology to the company’s work affords it with a faster time to market, increased levels of productivity and reduced waste, “as well as happier, more motivated staff.” “We have a close working relationship with the operators, and in addition, we ensure that our commercial and product teams keep up-todate with the evolving regulatory landscape. Furthermore, the entire company works with OKRs – Objectives and Key Results – which provide a level of transparency and shared understanding that’s very rare in the industry. When coupled with the SAFe framework, this provides us with a significant advantage,” Mr dos Remedios adds.

“Our product development process is geared towards being able to react to changes, fast. Owning our own platform allows us to adapt quickly and respond to external compliance requirements. We must not be afraid to pivot if we discover something is not working as expected. We must keep an eye on the horizon, as the landscape is constantly changing, and we must be ready to embrace change and react quickly.” Having worked in so many different locations around the world, I ask what he thinks of Malta as a hub for the iGaming industry. “Malta is indeed a hub, meaning those working in the industry have the opportunity to further their careers without having to endure complex international relocations,” Mr dos Remedios says. “The industry employs a fairly young demographic, who enjoy the Maltese lifestyle. The excellent weather, coupled with a good quality of life, is a pull to those looking at job postings from an office in a cold, wet, northern European city.” “From a corporate perspective, the costs associated with operating a business in Malta, especially in iGaming, are attractive. However, finding office space is a challenge in Malta and the road and transport infrastructure could be improved. The amount of traffic on the roads has increased significantly over the past few years and commuting times are ever increasing. I’ve swapped a car for a bicycle and now arrive to work in half the time compared to when I drove – and that’s before you factor in the time it takes to find a car park space!” Blexr has risen to the challenge of finding office space in Malta, recently signing a lease for a new, additional space locally, and is currently busy refurbishing it, ready for its opening in January. And the company has international plans too.

However, he is keen to emphasise that the company has to continue to improve in the areas which provide Blexr with a competitive advantage, “and that we do not take our foot off the gas.”


“We’ll continue to focus on markets that are currently regulated and those newly emerging. To support the growth of the business we’re opening a new office in Barcelona next year.” “This is an exciting step for Blexr, one that the team is working hard on, and we look forward to continued growth next year.”




s the iGaming industry has grown in the past two decades in both scale and international stature, individual nation states have reacted differently, each introducing new structures and regulations to manage the exponentially growing size of online transactions. Now, as the world moves ever-closer to a legal consensus, it falls more and more to financial specialists to guide companies through every change on the horizon. In Malta, Griffiths and Associates are one of the leading companies to provide these services, with Managing and Tax Director Peter Griffiths at the helm. “My father was an accounting practitioner for many years, and he set up his business in the 1980s. I joined him in 2000 after I graduated,

and the company was really born in 2004, as a partnership between myself and my father. Over the years, the firm grew organically; my father withdrew from the firm, and I was joined by persons who are now directors and part equity owners. The company has been growing organically for 14 years now. I think one of the most important milestones for the company was moving to the bigger offices here in Naxxar, from our smaller office in Swieqi.” The growth seen in Malta, however, has paved the way for more global interests. “Our firm having an international outlook made all the difference, so after I graduated and joined my father, that’s when we started looking at international business. As



Photos by Alan Carville

In the modern world, where unimaginable sums of money can change hands without the two parties ever meeting, there is an increasingly urgent race between governments and authorities to bring those transactions under a measure of control and stability. Lewis Pitcher talks to Peter Griffiths, Managing and Tax Director of accounting and auditing firm Griffiths and Associates, about the importance and challenges of guiding clients and companies through the labyrinth of regulation and taxation.





we started growing, the portfolios of our clients grew in scale. We also became the sole representative of PrimeGlobal in Malta, which is one of the Big Five accounting associations in the world. This is extremely useful for our clients, as it helps both those working from Malta, as well as those who wish to set up here, thanks to our contacts from all over the world.” Mr Griffiths attributes a large part of the company’s success to its guiding philosophy – that the client is at the core of the company’s service. “We go by a very simple rule: if the client isn’t happy, we give them their money back. Not a lot of companies would do that, although we’ve never actually had to give money back, because our clients have always been satisfied. We’ve set up numerous policies and procedures that allow us to keep quality as the business’s priority.” The company takes the longest possible time, and the utmost care in learning about the people they work with. “We like to look at a client holistically and within an international context. The first question we ask a client is ‘What do you want to achieve by operating in or via Malta?’ Then, we look at every aspect of their operation, and analyse how particular aspects can have a knock-on effect on other elements of the company, such as VAT or estate planning. We try to provide a comprehensive solution that is pragmatic and all-encompassing. It is only too easy to sell to a client without first looking at factors such as where they are resident, where their family is resident, or where their business is based, but that’s not how we choose to work.”

This approach has, on occasion, given rise to some unusual situations. “It has happened that we have actually refused business when there was no good fit. In other cases, we have had to set up in a very different way to accommodate these factors. That is where the ‘specialisation’ aspect of the company comes into play, by taking everything into account and assisting with structuring with that in mind. There is a lot of thinking outside of the box, particulary in today’s environment, where legally it has become more difficult and complex to move across different countries, especially when it comes to matters such as tax.” Regarding the iGaming world, Mr Griffiths speaks with an air of optimism. “The iGaming industry is remarkably resilient, and it has kept on growing over the years. We also have many new businesses setting up shop, not only those directly providing online services, but also from the B2B side. Overall, we are seeing a big push locally for iGaming companies to move towards being quoted on stock exchanges, and we are looking to assist with this process from day one, including helping them set up share registers or keeping formal minutes of board meetings.” >




As with many owners of businesses linked to iGaming, Mr Griffiths puts the success of the industry in Malta largely down to the legal structures and approaches taken by authorities. “Finding solutions in this industry is vital, and the framework has simplified certain aspects such as taxation and the licensing process. There are some cases where it may affect some smaller businesses negatively but overall, I think it has been a move in the right direction. With that said, regulation of the industry has always been fair and balanced, and having a Maltese gaming licence has always been internationally respected, compared to other, less strict jurisdictions.” On the topic of VAT and taxation, he also points out the wider implications that the industry has created in Malta, particularly in other areas of business. “VAT has been affected, for sure. It has always been a bit of a thorn in the side of the industry, since it is often a cost that cannot be recovered. However, as of the start of this year, companies that directly provide gambling services have been assisted by new VAT regulations. Sports betting is still a bit complicated, as these new rules don’t apply, and with respect to the authorities, I think they have missed a chance to extend regulations to all companies that provide gambling services. On the other hand, the VAT grouping was tackled well, helping not only the iGaming industry but also the financial, banking and insurance industries. Companies that conduct business across these areas can now apply for one VAT number for the entire group under a new article of the EU VAT Directive that was transposed into local legislation.”


Looking forward, Mr Griffiths sees both opportunities and hurdles on the horizon for both the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the industry itself. “As I said before, extending the current VAT legislation to include aspects such as sports betting would help to create a more level playing field, and would further simplify the procedures. That would be very positive. As for challenges, the Online Digital Tax that the EU is currently trying to implement, would mean certain gaming companies could be caught with a 3 per cent tax on all revenue. On top of this, we’ve gone full circle from banking secrecy to almost full transparency, and we’re now looking at discussions over where digital economic activity is based and taxed – is the activity generated where the customer is based, where the company is based, or where the servers are based?”


This particular challenge, according to Mr Griffiths, has its roots in a more global place, and should be something any online business should keep in mind. “This is all linked internationally to the big multinationals such as Apple, Amazon and others. These companies have set up structures, legitimately, which means they pay minimal amounts of tax on the billions they generate. There has been a big public outcry on this, and it will have an impact on iGaming for sure in the future, particularly on tax jurisdiction regulations. Cost bases for companies are going to rise as jurisdictions begin to tax companies located elsewhere for transactions with their residents. It is quite likely that we’ll start seeing smaller companies dying off or being absorbed by larger companies. That is set to be one of the biggest challenges ahead.”




Betsson Group’s history goes back 55 years, starting from a single slot machine and growing into a global online business. With the company fresh from an intensive restructuring exercise, Joanna Demarco speaks to CEO of Betsson Operations Jesper Svensson and Chief HR Officer Lena Nordin about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the company, and above all, the value given to the company’s employees – the Betssonites.


e are a company that is constantly moving forward, and right now, exciting things are happening,” says CEO of Betsson Operations Jesper Svensson. “When I was appointed CEO of Betsson Operations last year, my priority was to make sure we got back on track. We streamlined and consolidated each and every team, making sure that every single one was working in a more efficient manner. By streamlining the organisation, and improving our marketing efficiency and product offering, we are now on our way back to delivering stronger results.” “Following the restructuring process that we carried out earlier this year, our roles, responsibilities and mandates have become clearer. Our employees now have a clear view on how they contribute to our success – indeed, the input and efforts of our Betssonites are fundamental to this. Our customers are our driving force and we do our utmost to exceed their expectations. Working here, you play a big part in that. Our attention to culture and leadership are effectively supporting the internal changes, and ensuring that they are being carried out throughout the organisation.”

The improvements Betsson made internally were also fuelled by the World Cup which took place this summer, which, Mr Svensson remarks, in addition to being a fantastic sporting event, was very good for Betsson’s books. “Our aim is to be the company we should be and can be – for our customers, our investors and our employees,” he shares. “Our ambition is to outgrow the market in a profitable and sustainable way, and continue to be a long-term, leading online company.” Mr Svensson comments that the iGaming industry is growing as more and more countries move into locallyregulated frameworks. “Globally, only 15 per cent of gambling takes place online, creating huge potential for gaming converts. The opportunities are endless; it is only a question of where you want to go. There is no industry quite like the gaming industry; it is fast-paced and we will continue to make improvements and work towards our goals. But I feel we stand strong and are well-equipped for the future.” He states that the fact that many countries implement local licences increases the demands on gaming companies. “You need to have your due diligence and compliance processes in place. At Betsson we welcome this development, since we know we have what it takes to succeed in a locally-regulated environment. As an example, we have long awaited the Swedish re-regulation, and are looking forward to the new possibilities this will open up for us.” >




Another area which is developing and where Betsson is at the forefront is responsible gaming. “To us, it is a natural part of what we do and a cornerstone of our business. We want our customers to have a safe, secure and fun experience with us. We were one of the first companies to have full-time staff working exclusively on responsible gaming and we have a number of tools and processes in place.” “At Betsson, our focus is always on the customer, making sure that the features we develop and the improvements we make are in their best interest,” Mr Svensson asserts. “At the end of the day, the customer wants to have fun and enjoy their time gambling with us, and we are committed to their entertainment.”


“OUR GREATEST ADVANTAGE IS OUR PEOPLE” Betsson Group in Malta currently employs approximately 900 people and counting, and you don’t get to those kinds of figures if you’re not doing something right. The secret seems to lie in the importance the company places on its employees’ well-being – it subscribes to an employee-centric philosophy, giving priority to creating a happy and healthy work environment. “We spend a big part of our lives at work,” says Lena Nordin, Betsson’s Chief HR Officer. “It goes without saying that our colleagues, the work environment and the culture impact us profoundly. I think that it is important for an employer to recognise this as a fundamental fact, and facilitate a happy, healthy work culture. Having a fun and uplifting environment instils a sense of caring, one where everyone feels that they can do their job with passion, strive for the same goals, and stay true to the OneBetsson value.” However, rather than seeing it as a culture imposed on the company’s employees, Ms Nordin explains that she believes that the culture developed in a more organic way. “I’m a firm believer that culture comes from within – it’s doing the right things in a way that feels natural to that respective company. The company culture at Betsson is created and upheld by our wonderful Betssonites, and that’s what makes it special and durable.” Employee retention is important to any company, and keeping members of the staff feeling good is key to achieving this – after all, happy, empowered employees are less likely to wake up one morning and hand in their notice. Ms Nordin explains






that Betsson is continuously working to improve the work culture with the aim that empowerment and engagement remain a constant. This includes the distribution of benefits and perks. “At Betsson we constantly make sure that we are competitive in this regard and that we cater to different preferences,” she says. “Basically, our job is to make sure that the experience an employee has with us is as good as it can possibly be for that specific individual, on every step of their journey with us.” This is noticeable in the number of ex-employees who re-apply with Betsson. Over the past year in Malta, the company has re-recruited 16 people who were former Betsson employees, a practice known as ‘boomeranging’ (see pg48).

Betsson Group also prides itself on its vocal support of diversity. Its recent participation in the Malta Pride parade saw the company display the message ‘Be Yourself. Out. Loud. Proud’. “We wanted to take a clear stand for every person’s right to be whoever they want to be,” says Ms Nordin. However, this philosophy does not only stop after Pride Week ends – it’s a value of the company that is celebrated all year round. “There are currently 49 different nationalities working with Betsson in Malta. We’re a melting pot of cultures, religions, languages and experiences. We know that this diversity gives us an edge when it comes to innovation, and is necessary for us to stay at the forefront. Every project, every successful product launch, and every amazing marketing campaign is a result of diverse teams of people working together to find the best solution,” Ms Nordin says. “Every employee is an individual, with individual needs and ways to contribute. But either way, there is more that unites us than divides us. We share common values and joint attributes that define us as Betssonites and make us, as a Group, stand out from the crowd.” Ms Nordin says that different people may be interested in different benefits, career paths and development opportunities. “Together we join forces and use our different skills to build our company and bring our business forward. Only by recognising this individuality can we hope to be the employer of choice for the talent we want to attract,” she says. “Our greatest advantage is our people. If you join us, there is always someone to be inspired by and learn from. You are supported by your colleagues in what we refer to as the OneBetsson spirit. Together we can – and do – achieve wonderful things. Come along for the ride!”






END UP BEING INTERNET” Dr Christian Ellul and Karl Schranz, Directors of E&S Group, one of the local frontrunners in blockchain and crypto advisory services, speak to Joanna Demarco about the exciting potential of blockchain, and how this intertwines with the future of the iGaming industry.

Karl Schranz and Christian Ellul. Photos by Alan Carville


n early 2017, E&S Group, a Group of companies focusing on advisory and corporate services, took it upon itself to gain experience on the subjects of distributed ledger technology (DLT) and initial coin offerings (ICO) – two areas where the Group saw great potential. Consequently, along with its already-wide portfolio of company services – including helping gaming companies acquire their Maltese gaming licences – E&S became a local frontrunner in offering advisory services on blockchain and cryptocurrency; two game-changers which it deems ‘revolutionary’. E&S Group’s international clientele includes companies from a variety of sectors such as aviation, iGaming and corporate. However, the fairly recent move to take on clients linked with blockchain and cryptocurrency has added to their wide portfolio of services in an exciting manner, with the demand for such services growing rapidly. Moreover, their longstanding practice in financial services and legal work (through an associated law firm) has created an ideal environment to


explore the implications of these fresh concepts. E&S prides itself on holding levelled competences in blockchain and iGaming; the intertwining of which is becoming increasingly relevant, particularly here in Malta, where the blockchain industry is being warmly embraced, and where milestone steps are being taken with regards to legislation in both industries. Director Karl Schranz admits that prior to knowing anything about blockchain, he did not regard the technology too fondly. However, when Mr Schranz and Dr Ellul were asked to provide corporate services to a client in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry, the concept and the potential it brought along became increasingly intriguing. >



“It took me three to four months of reading and studying to realise the potential it has,” says Mr Schranz, who now takes it into his own hands to mentor colleagues about the topic. “It is not only a good business opportunity for us – we wholeheartedly believe in it, and it is here to stay. In this regard, Malta is going to lead the world.”

With Malta currently a global leader in the field, being quick to also include these industries as part of their services portfolio has been advantageous to the Group. In fact, E&S Group were the first locally to provide tokenomics services, which relate to the valuation of the token economy, currency and distribution of the crypto-tokens. Naturally, the Group still offers more traditional banking, financial services, knowyour-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering solutions, among others. But blockchain and crypto are the elements of a brand-new world, one which the company wholeheartedly believes will transform business and technology as we know them.

REVOLUTIONISING THE WORLD This year, Malta became the first jurisdiction globally to pass three progressive Acts which, in turn, have attracted many DLT-based companies to the island. Over the past few months, a number of large companies have announced their move to Malta including Binance, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange. Meanwhile, BigOne, Monaco and OKEx are some other blockchain leaders that have followed suit. Asked what he thinks about Malta’s reputation in relation to blockchain, Mr Schranz speaks highly of Malta’s move to take on the industry. “We are leading, not following. Malta has decided to stop and look at the industry. We are the first ones to enact proper legislation, so that if a good business wants to operate in Malta they have a legal framework to work within it,” he states. “Elsewhere, there are grey areas.” Mr Schranz says that mistakes are bound to happen; “the law is not perfect yet, as the understanding is not all there, but there are only small things which must be tweaked.” But ultimately, he believes that blockchain will end up being ‘bigger than the Internet’ and predicts that with much investment, cryptocurrency and blockchain will completely revolutionise the world in a couple of years. Blockchain and iGaming, can, of course, interlink. Mr Schranz believes that with blockchain in play within the iGaming industry, there will be even more checks and balances in place. “Transparency is one of blockchain’s biggest advantages,” he states. In fact, blockchain has been described as the embodiment of the contradicting idea of having privacy working alongside transparency, as details of transactions are






only shared between the participants involved, but all the transactions and holdings which are finalised are completely auditable and impossible to erase. Blockchain may be used for many different purposes, including storing data, issuing digital coins and creating digital contracts. However, it can also be used by companies which are seeking to raise money for their business through the process of crowdfunding. That is where ICOs come in. With ICOs – the cryptocurrency equivalent of an IPO in the mainstream investment world – companies can raise funds from investors who want to participate in this token offer. With ICOs, Mr Schranz explains, cryptocurrency will give gaming companies which are just starting up the opportunity to monetise before launching, being able to “sell part of their currency before starting the project.” “Cryptocurrencies have a new asset that not many are recognising, which can monetise on their system’s currency,” he says. “In my opinion, this will soon be as big as the banking industry when it first came in.”


While he views blockchain as an overwhelmingly positive development, Mr Schranz voices his concern about the speed of cryptocurrency and the uncontrollability which decentralisation brings about. “If we need to find something wrong with decentralisation, it is that no one can control it,” he says. “You can have a gaming company which is up and decentralised, but which no one can ever fully pull down, as it will be replicated over a large number of servers.” >



ENSURING A BETTER CLASS OF IGAMING CLIENTS Moving on to the topic of iGaming, Dr Christian Ellul states that in future, the industry’s regulations are likely to become more stringent. He highlights the new Gaming Act, which is putting more scrutiny on stakeholders involved in gaming companies and seeking to elevate Malta’s jurisdictional profile. “We are trying to ensure that the gaming clients coming to Malta are of a better quality, and regulations are tightening up,” Dr Ellul explains. “The regulations are additional ‘fit and proper tests’ on the ownership, to minimise risks of money laundering that could possibly pass through Malta. People think Malta just takes in all business, which is not the case,” he adds. “We are very highly regulated, and we keep pushing ourselves further in this direction.” Asked how he sees the field developing in the next decade, Dr Ellul says that while the gaming industry continues to grow steadily, the growth of the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry will be much more exponential. “I am not sure if there is a saturation point to iGaming,” he states. “There are always new people turning of age and wanting to try out these websites. I think it will still be an important industry, but I do not think that it will double or triple. I think the growth of something like crypto or blockchain will be much larger.”

THE FUTURE OF MALTA AS THE JURISDICTION OF CHOICE Dr Ellul believes that Malta’s decision to understand the iGaming industry and build up the regulation around it is what has made it a favourable jurisdiction. “What Malta did when it started offering iGaming licences, is that it began to regulate what was otherwise an unregulated market,” says Dr Ellul. “At that time, people would either not operate with a licence, or they would have licences outside the European Union in places like Curaçao. The iGaming industry first moved to Malta because it was regulated. Then there is the fact that Malta also offers a fully compliant favourable tax system, aside from the additional gaming taxes of course.” In this way, Malta “found its niche,” he says. “We have been growing strong for 10 years, and always improving. I think that Malta specialises in regulating high-risk industries, and that is why Malta now has the necessary know-how and experience to be a frontrunner in regulating blockchain and cryptocurrencies.” However, as time passes, more countries – including Sweden, the country of origin for a significant number of iGaming companies – are regulating the industry. “This has created the need for companies in Malta to analyse whether they would need another licence in Sweden over and above the Maltese gaming licence,” Dr Ellul explains. “If you have the choice of regulation in Malta, but elsewhere there is a high and possibly unsustainable tax rate, Malta would still be preferable.” >




“However, keep in mind that here, the cost of living is going up, so this is a bit of an analysis which the companies will need to carry out. As time goes by, I think we will have more highly-qualified persons in Malta and fewer, let’s say, lower-level employees, such as call centre agents. They will probably shift elsewhere because Malta is becoming more expensive, which can be seen as a natural progression for a successful jurisdiction.” With this in mind, the discussion moves towards what types of challenges Malta is facing in this regard. The first mentioned by Dr Ellul is the lack of a qualified workforce which is needed to service the industries. “There is a constant demand for both people and knowledge,” he says, “and that is why more foreigners keep coming to Malta.” However, he believes that, despite challenges faced, Malta is putting in the effort to adjust to these changes. “Malta is always trying to be nimble and to adapt,” he says confidently, mentioning the recently-introduced initiative between MCAST and iGaming Academy to launch an iGaming course as an action taken to the call for more knowledge in the field.

He points to the rental situation linked to the influx of foreign workers, both in iGaming and other industries, where popular commercial areas such as Sliema and St Julian’s are becoming increasingly crowded and expensive – simply because the people who work there want to be able to walk to work. “I think that with better infrastructure, which is being worked on now, you can easily have people living, say, in Marsascala, and not taking hours to get to work in St Julian’s and Sliema.” It seems clear that the price Malta has had to pay for being a legislative leader in two industries which are paving the way for the future is somewhat small in comparison to the benefits it has reaped. And for a company which has legal expertise in both the iGaming and blockchain industries, E&S Group is definitely in the right place at the right time.




Blockchain, a type of distributed ledger technology (DLT) is set to significantly revolutionise almost every aspect of modern life in the not-too-distant future. Malta has been busy laying the groundwork for the regularisation of this still largely unknown technology – but what effect will it have on iGaming worldwide? Marie-Claire Grima finds out more.



Elaborating on the latter point, Dr Zammit says that as subject persons under anti-money laundering rules, gaming companies are obliged to carry out KYC procedures to ensure that their websites and systems are not being used to launder money deriving from criminal activity. “The application of DLT may assist in further streamlining the collection of such documentation by standardising the type of documents needed and the way in which they are provided to the gaming company. Moreover, due to the immutable nature of DLTs, the records of the player are maintained in a manner that neither the operator nor the player themselves can tamper with.”


f one had to come up with a heat map of tech topics that have been most frequentlydiscussed in the past couple of years in Malta, ‘blockchain’ would surely be a fiery, sprawling red. The innovative and unprecedented legislation introduced this year, aimed at regulating distributed ledger technology (DLT), is helping the island blaze a trail and fuelling its efforts to maintain its title as ‘the blockchain island’. The legislation has been introduced with the idea that blockchain is set to become far more widespread, globally, its use applicable to an infinite number of sectors, including iGaming, a sector which is hugely important to Malta. Indeed, it takes no great leap of the imagination to say that blockchain-based iGaming platforms could be potentially leading the iGaming industry in the next few years. Dr Silvana Zammit, Partner for Global Property, Yachting, Aircraft and Gaming at Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates, states that there are several aspects of iGaming which in the future may be changed and transformed through the use of DLTs. “These include the hosting of the games fully or partially on a DLT environment, possibly for transparency and to prove the fairness of these games; use of smart contracts for the execution of gaming transactions to ensure that once a bet is lost or won, the appropriate payouts are carried out in accordance with the pre-determined conditions of the smart contract; and the use of cryptocurrencies as a means of payment and know-your-client (KYC) procedures.”


However, since DLT is still a nascent technology, Dr Zammit says that there are aspects which would need to be kept in check. “There have been a number of cases where third-parties maliciously accessed the DLT and caused loss to the interested parties therein. Another matter that ought to be considered when deploying KYC DLTs is the protection of data subjects through the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). One of the rights afforded to the data subject is the right to be forgotten and the erasure of one’s personal data. The very nature of DLT and its immutable aspects may be opposed to the right of the data subject to take back control of his personal data, and hence, data protection considerations must be addressed.” Moving on to the subject of cryptocurrencies in iGaming, Steve Muscat Azzopardi, Head of Corporate and Fintech at Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates, says that acceptance of cryptocurrencies by gaming operators as a means of payment may be one of the major




developments present in the iGaming industry. “The use of cryptocurrencies in a regulated environment offers operators and players vaster choice and greater liberty in their transactions. The use of such cryptocurrencies, however, must go handin-hand with the implementation of the necessary player protection safeguards, for the iGaming industry to maintain the balance between player protection on the one hand and a pragmatic approach for operators on the other. The trail to this balance has already been started by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), that has launched a test and learn initiative for the use of DLT and acceptance of cryptocurrencies by gaming operators in a sandbox environment to evaluate the effectiveness and risks, whilst paving the way for possible adoption thereafter of the general use of DLT and acceptance of cryptocurrencies by Malta gaming operators.” However, Mr Muscat Azzopardi cautions that the technology requires further exploration and possibly upgrades and improvements. “There is little or no benefit of experience or history in the use of DLTs and/ or cryptocurrencies by regulated gaming companies. The surrounding regulatory safeguards would be key to ensuring player protection and smooth operations by the gaming providers.” The only risk that could arise from the marriage of iGaming and blockchain is if regulators take too long to embrace the technology, warns Dr Joseph F. Borg, Gaming Advisory and Blockchain Advisory Partner at WH Partners. “This will foster the growth of unregulated gaming sites in this space. Regulation is important for the protection of minors and vulnerable persons, and to keep gaming free of crime and money laundering.” Dr Borg states that blockchain technology, particularly cryptocurrencies, brings along numerous advantages for the gaming industry. “Every stakeholder can benefit – the operator, the user as well as the regulator. However, when you couple blockchain and AI, I pretty much believe that these two technologies together will revolutionise online gaming as we know it.” While he applauds the success that Malta has had in positioning itself as ‘the blockchain island’, he adds that the success depends also on the regulatory approach that the relevant regulators will take. “In their approach it is essential that they find the right balance between having a robust regulatory framework, while maintaining

an attractive environment for stakeholders. In an industry that is still in its infancy, it is essential that start-ups be allowed to grow and flourish. They will be the ones to come up with innovative products and business models.” While Dr Borg lists Switzerland, Estonia, Lichtenstein and Lithuania among the ones to watch in Europe when it comes to DLTs, he adds that none of them are gamingfriendly. “Therefore, when it comes to gaming operations based on blockchain technology, Malta is the most interesting jurisdiction at this stage.” Palladium founder Paolo Catalfamo, owner of holding company Investar, and his co-founder, Rahul Sood, former CEO of Microsoft Ventures and founder of Las Vegas-based eSports leader Unikrn, explain that Unikrn is the only live wagering company built entirely on blockchain. “We built on blockchain because of the need for transparency and trust. And, to be honest there’s no better way to build AML and KYC screening systems than with blockchain technology. In terms of how AI and IoT fit in, the reality is that AI is used to improve the way we create odds,” Prof Catalfamo says. “The biggest benefit for Unikrn if DLTs gradually become a greater part of iGaming is that we can operate across borders and silos without dealing with cumbersome and archaic banking technologies. Our platform is cutting-edge as we can do wallet tracking like no other, and we know our customers intimately,” Mr Sood continues. “Obviously, problems are presented, but companies like Palladium are here to solve some of the big ones. Palladium aims to make it easy for consumers to transact with and manage their cryptocurrency.” Prof Catalfamo believes DLT will advance iGaming like no other technology in history. “A properly-applied blockchain platform can help regulators manage audits easier, as it gives consumers a much better and more transparent experience, and operators can expand their business without dealing with old outdated technology in the future. Malta is a breath of fresh air for those of us in the blockchain space. Having regulatory certainty is a must to secure investor confidence; it allows us to innovate freely while working with regulators to protect consumers.” “The two industries have natural and obvious synergies,” concludes Mr Sood. “I believe they can successfully support each other.”





Photos by Alan Carville



The new Kindred office at Tigné’s The Centre has employees wanting for nothing – from the design to the location to the many day-to-day perks, no stone was left unturned. Martina Said heads there to find out what puts this office in a league of its own.


e’re all guilty of gawking at images of global tech companies’ offices around the world – and what’s not to gawk at? The design, the technology, the ambience, and all the perks that go with working in such a high-powered space seem worlds away from the average office. But Kindred Group has brought that to Malta with its superb offices located at The Centre at Tigné – with some added Mediterranean flair for good measure. I meet Keith Caruana, Office Manager, and Mette Lorenzen, Head of Customer Service at Kindred Group on the sixth floor of the sleek office block. They escort me to The Hub, which is the social space of the office, brimming with striking fittings and attention to detail. It’s where colleagues congregate for breakfast and lunch, social activities, game tournaments, for a coffee break, or a quick round of billiards. It’s where they hold large-scale conferences, plan to host movie nights and hold informal meetings with visitors, guests and among themselves. Such is the flexibility of the Kindred office, its overall vibe incredibly laid-back and welcoming despite its high-spec design. >





Kindred Group (then Unibet) commenced operations in Malta in August 2000, just before the start of the Sydney Olympic games. The move to The Centre succeeded a completely different office set-up – previously, one office was based in Gżira while the other was in St Julian’s. “We’ve been growing steadily over the last few years, and have acquired many new companies,” says Mette. “In 2015, we acquired iGame, which was based here in Malta with an office in St Julian’s, while our Kindred office was in Gżira, and this arrangement didn’t suit our integration. From a business perspective, we needed to unite, which is also one of our values, and moving to one, single office was the first step to making it happen.” Mette adds that, although the St Julian’s office was fairly new, neither of the offices reflected the Group as it evolved into what it is today. With 11 main brands under its belt, and with current and future growth in the pipeline, there was a need for one modern office space to bring everyone within the Malta offices together. And The Centre at Tigné Point was just what the doctor ordered – conveniently located right in between their two previous offices, causing little disruption to the lives of employees, many of whom are based in and around the area. “We occupy floors five, six and seven within The Centre, the office block itself being a prestigious business destination that is surrounded by many amenities,” says Keith. “We were able to design the offices from scratch, which gave us the freedom we needed to define our own identity within the block, in line with Kindred’s international image.” >




Every floor is divided into two areas: the sea side and the piazza side, and while both sides offer charming views in their own way, the views from the sea-facing sides are pretty spectacular. “The first point of call for guests and visitors is The Hub, which is accessed from the reception area and occupies half of one floor,” says Keith. “It is dedicated to social interaction but also doubles up as a space for informal business activity. We have large screens and plenty of seating area for meetings and presentations, making the space both recreational and professional.” The remaining half of the sixth floor hosts a range of support services, including human resources and design, as well as a number of meeting rooms. The other two floors are identical in footprint, with an open-plan office layout on both sides, a kitchenette, collaboration areas and various meeting rooms. The fifth floor is occupied by the player safety (also referred to as anti-fraud) team, which performs crucial back-end supporting functions, the anti-money laundering team and responsible gaming, payments and finance, as well as all the product teams. The seventh floor hosts Customer Support, which is the largest team with 179 employees, as well as some teams that handle a host of commercial functions.

“There are 47 individual meeting rooms spread across three floors, as well as a few unique spaces, such as the meditation area which we use for yoga sessions and other fitness activities, although they could also be used as meeting rooms if the rest are occupied,” says Keith. “We’ve also got a training room on the sixth floor, which was designed with newcomers in mind, who receive specialised induction training during their first few days at Kindred.” One of the most outstanding aspects of the new office is its advanced audio-visual (AV) set-up. As Mette and Keith explain, the possibilities for interaction within and beyond the office, and beyond Malta’s shores, are endless. “All the rooms are equipped with advanced AV technology, making communication and collaboration between colleagues and offices seamless and smooth. The set-up not only unites the people within this very office, but also unites them with the rest of our 12 offices around the world,” they say. In fact, the software and technology used for accessing the office or booking a meeting room is the same in Malta as it is in London, making it easy for employees to move between offices without needing to set up or sync their mobile phones or laptops every time. But the similarities don’t end there. The design and feel of the offices are consistent across countries and continents, with variations that reflect the climate and region that the office is located in. “There were guidelines to follow in that we had designers on board who helped to streamline the design and décor of the office, through the choices of furniture and soft furnishings, in line with the design of our overseas offices,” says Mette. >






“The fundamentals of the décor had to be consistent in order for Kindred to maintain its identity, but we also wanted to give it a local touch and, most importantly, give employees what they want, because in the end, it’s our people who spend most of their lives in this office,” she adds. “We brainstormed with management representing all the departments, asking them for feedback on what their teams want specifically for the Malta office – among the requests were a large sportsbook screen, because many people like to socialise while watching matches or playing games; the yoga room, which is a dedicated space for fitness activities that we didn’t have before; and an air hockey table. One request we discussed at length was the use of raising tables, and in the end, we installed one for every desk in the office.” Keith adds that the overall feel of the office needed to be welcoming and cosy, hence the heavy use of wood for floors and walls, primarily in The Hub, as well as carpeting and sofas. “However, the use of carpeting was reduced considerably in comparison to, say, our London office, given Malta’s warm climate. The office also needed to be fresh, bright, and functional, the latter also applying to the little things, such as the placement of plants that need frequent watering. There are over 400 people working inside the office and technology exists in every corner, so we had to be conscious of where to place plants that need regular watering to avoid unnecessary accidents.” >



Keith and Mette explain that, prior to the move into the Tigné office, there were two other office moves within Kindred Group, at their overseas offices, which the Malta team was able to learn a lot from, particularly with respect to the optimisation of services and installations. “Local management worked very hard to keep its ears on the ground and get feedback from employees to understand what they wanted to see in the new office, while retaining a local touch that is reflective of our location. We kept this up even after the move, to understand what our people want and work towards achieving it, in order to remain close and relevant. Engagement was and remains key.” From showers equipped with towels and toiletries, to a nap room on the seventh floor for those in need of a quick recharge, to free parking at the Tigné car park for all employees, there are plenty of perks to be enjoyed here. Best of them all, however, is the food service, which is in operation for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week, with the last dinner service being at 9.30pm from Monday to Sunday. Keith adds “with people from so many different countries working here, the kitchen team works hard to reflect that diversity in its food

offering – on any given day, you may find a Maltese ftira, Danish pastries or some Swedish desserts to tuck into.” While the office’s striking aesthetic is clear for all to see, there were no compromises on its functionality. “We have high ambitions to be the number one operator in this sector in the coming years, so we knew we wanted to design the office to cater for growth,” says Mette. “At the same time, we didn’t want the office to look empty. We also took notes from the new Stockholm office setup, which has a similar floor plan to this one in that the offices are split between floors with a social space in the middle to bring everyone together. The moves of other offices were important to help us understand what works and what could be improved.” With such acute attention to detail and an overall stimulating work environment, not to mention those views, you’d understand why Keith and Mette struggle to pick their personal favourite aspect of the new office design. “If I had to pick one thing that really stands out,” says Keith, “it’s the homely feeling of the office combined with the knowledge that everything is fully up to standard. From the food to the parking to snacks and showers, we give a lot of attention to peripheral services. So, although it is ultimately still an office, employees can come to work every day with peace of mind and a focus to work, leaving us to take care of everything else.” Mette is in agreement, and goes on to highlight two favourites of her own. “Firstly, I believe the sea view gives a real wow factor to the office – it’s quite unique in that it cannot be obstructed because we can’t get any closer to the water than we already are,” she asserts. “Secondly, most of us spend a third of our lives in the office, and Kindred has set up this office to cater for that. We’re all for work-life balance, but now people can achieve that within the context of their working environment, and not just outside it. We offer three free meals every day and employees don’t need to travel far to get it; every desk is a raising table which can be adjusted to an individual’s height; every floor has a kitchenette so that, no matter where you’re sitting, you don’t need to walk more than 10 steps to get water or make coffee; you could do yoga or go to the gym, or pop in to do some shopping before you go home – it’s the full package really. It’s the Kindred life.”


WINTER 2018/2019 PRESS

LEADING EUROPEAN OFFICE CHAIR COMPANY SITLAND AVAILABLE EXCLUSIVELY AT STUDIO MODA SitLand is the story of the success of Italian industry, which managed to combine a profound know-how typical of the Made in Italy brand with more innovative industrial and technological processes. SitLand’s story originated and developed in Vicenza – the city of Palladio – in the heart of Veneto, where the territory is the breeding ground of successful enterprises and has created works and products known all over the world. SitLand was founded in 1977, when it began manufacturing the upholstery for the seats and sleeping cabins of Italy’s trains. In 1982, SitLand added chairs for hairdressing salons to its production line, which were exported to many European countries.

In 1987, SitLand embarked on a new path in the industry of office chairs, but the breakthrough occurred in 1996 when, with the launch of Ouverture, the company changed pace and found new energy. This sparked an era of technology and design, combined with ergonomics and aesthetics. SitLand now plays a prominent role in the international scene thanks to quality, research and innovation. The story of SitLand is characterised by passion and commitment, creativity and research, design and technology – a constant balance between individual needs and technologies, where the individual is the origin and goal of every creation. SitLand offers seating furniture suitable for every type of public and private group spaces, including executive and management chairs, chairs for offices and meetings, chairs for visitors and groups, multi-function chairs, sofas and armchairs for contract use and waiting spaces, seating for auditoriums and theatres, and a collection of small furniture items with a range of tables and coffee tables. SitLand has received important recognitions from the world of industry, including being acknowledged as a company of excellence from the General Confederation of Italian Industry, and more. These stand to witness this path made of challenges and provocations, aiming for multiple definitions of design. • An innovative design. • A design that makes every seat useful. • An aesthetically appealing design. • A design that gives sense to every product. • A design capable of giving expression to the people who use it. • An honest design, never boastful. • A modern design that gives life to the best-selling seats, where SitLand embodies the past, present and future. • An accurate design, recognisable in the smallest detail. • A design attentive to the environment and to people. • An invisible design. . 82, Naxxar Road, San Gwann. T: 2258 7410; E:




IT SOLUTIONS Photos by Alan Carville



“WE STRIP AWAY ALL THE TECHNICAL COMPLEXITIES, AND ANY INDUSTRY WHICH REQUIRES THE HARNESSING OF KNOWLEDGE CAN BENEFIT FROM THE SOLUTIONS WITH WHICH WE CAN PROVIDE THEM.” From data centre services, to cloud facilities and human resources, BMIT Ltd have solidified their portfolio to become leading providers of IT solutions across various industries. Rebecca Anastasi talks to the company’s CEO, Ing Christian Sammut, about the technical assistance and expertise on offer.


ince its inception 15 years ago, IT solutions firm BMIT Ltd has grown from strength to strength. It has evolved from a data centre service provider to become the go-to company for the provision of a host of technical capabilities in industries which depend substantially on the privacy and security of their data and the efficiency of their computing infrastructure. “We have some of the largest iGaming customers worldwide,” says the company’s CEO, Ing Christian Sammut. “And this is because we have substantial experience in delivering a full range of IT services. Today, we are an IT enabler, aiding organisations in their complex data, cloud and technical human resource requirements.” The ability to simplify the complexities of the IT requirements of any high-level enterprise – boiling any set of demands down to concrete and practical necessities – is an offering which is unique in the market, according to


Ing Sammut. “We have the ability to offer end-to-end solutions, helping companies in industries as wide-ranging as iGaming, financial services, insurance or even retail. We strip away all the technical complexities, and any industry which requires the harnessing of knowledge can benefit from the solutions with which we can provide them.” The company started life strictly offering data centre services, principally to remote gaming companies – the firm, indeed, “remains the leading IT provider to iGaming companies,” the CEO states – and, today, “the simplest form” of engagement with the company involves co-location, a data centre service, in which companies may store their servers at the IT firm’s storage warehouses, which guarantees security and connectivity. >



“We give companies the power, space and bandwidth they require. We have data centres locally in Handaq and SmartCity Malta, where we ensure zero internet downtime, as well as physical and online security.” Surveillance cameras are operational at BMIT’s sites and they are both ISO27001 and PCI-DSS certified, a quality seal of approval giving peace of mind to companies that require tight controls. “These are certifications on information security and both certifying bodies audit and monitor the way you go about doing sensitive business. We have stringent procedures on everything: on how we handle data, what we do with it, and how we engage with customers on requirements.”

When local telecommunications giant GO plc bought the company in 2011, it gave “the new management a brief to transform BMIT.” This transformation resulted in a substantial expansion of the company’s portfolio. “GO’s involvement was strategic, and we have made enhancements to our original product: we now help companies set up their IT infrastructure, offering dedicated data servers – which we provide – as well as cloud servers and IT management services, wrapping hard technology with actual technical competences, and with human resources,” Ing Sammut explains. This “hand and brains” approach has meant the firm can now offer a holistic supply of IT capabilities. “Now we are a fully-fledged data centre, cloud and managed IT services provider. One company might, for example, need us to take care of their operating systems, or they might need us to satisfy disaster recovery and business continuity requirements. We can provide that. We are that link between the technology required and the human knowledge necessary to manage it.”

These data centre facilities are inter-linked with BMIT’s sites in Milan and Frankfurt, through the company’s own 40Gbps private international managed network. “The four sites are interlinked, and we buy internet abroad and bring it down over multiple connections. This provides a quality service and a high level of resiliency for the customer since if one link is down, there is transparent failover. This is especially important in industries such as iGaming and financial services, which can be the victims of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. And, we have invested substantially in technology, in DDoS mitigation services, to protect our clients,” Ing Sammut emphasises.

The firm’s first foray into technologies beyond its original core competency of data centre facilities was, indeed, the launch of its cloud platform in 2012. BMIT Ltd established a public cloud services infrastructure – “our local flavour of the cloud” as described by Ing Sammut – and integrated it with leading cloud service providers such as Microsoft.





“Imagine you need the computing power, but you don’t want to invest in hardware. We can offer both infrastructure-as-a-service and software-as-aservice solutions, allowing for increased flexibility and cost-effectiveness, since it is on demand and pay-per-use,” Ing Sammut explains. More recently, the company has also invested in its MultiCloud Connect offering, an extension to BMIT’s international network, allowing customers to access global cloud platforms, such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, as well as many other providers. “We developed a solution with a third party to ensure a dedicated connection which can hook customers up onto these global cloud services in a matter of hours or days,” Ing Sammut continues. This dual-pronged approach provides a much higher degree of flexibility to its local and international customers, according to the CEO, who explains that the firm’s data centre set-up, its local cloud service and its dedicated connectivity to global giants such as Amazon and Azure truly enable the hybrid IT requirements of businesses. And, the firm has even extended its offering to the heart of its clients’ operations. “Earlier this year, we completed the acquisition of Kinetix IT Solutions, which has brought on-premise and additional cloud competences to BMIT. Now, our portfolio of services can also be deployed at our customers’ offices or sites, allowing us to really provide A-to-Z IT services and solutions. Indeed, we can now offer customers a range of public, private and hybrid cloud services – which can be deployed at our customers’ premises, hosted in any of our data centres, or integrated with services offered by leading cloud services providers,” the CEO states. “Jointly, BMIT and Kinetix have over 60 employees. Both firms have history, and a track record which means we can put our combined expertise to good use.” This range of choice and experience, according to Ing Sammut, has also enabled BMIT Ltd to create bespoke solutions. “We will always sit down with the customer and see what they need. We do not shy away from suggesting solutions, engaging with them and proposing innovative ideas to them. Some customers want us to cater for all requirements, including the buying of equipment, determining the specs and so on, while others have narrower


demands,” the CEO explains. BMIT Ltd provides each client with an account manager and, once the deal has been agreed, companies also have the benefit of 24/7 technical support. “This means that our clients can call anytime. We utilise ITIL methodologies within our operations to allow our expert technical teams to deliver services and 24x7 support in a consistent and standardised manner.” Indeed, communication and collaboration are key to this endeavour, Ing Sammut explains. “We consider ourselves partners with our customers, so we will always go the extra mile,” the CEO asserts. This, and BMIT Ltd’s commitment to solving IT challenges, are what allow companies to run their businesses effectively.





Tonia Symington, Chief People Officer at performance marketing agency Blexr, believes that good employees are essential to the success of any business. She tells Marie-Claire Grima all about finding employees who are a good fit, Blexr’s familyoriented feeling, and the rewards that come from working at this growing company.

around. “I always wanted to be an entertainment director on a cruise ship – that would have been quite a different career path!” But although the seafaring life was not to be, Mrs Symington has had a long and varied career in HR spanning over 30 years and many different industries, including education, manufacturing, private banking and online gaming. She even ran her own consultancy for several years. “I came to Blexr in July 2018 after being approached by a head hunter. I liked what I heard from both the Chief Operating Officer and the co-Founders regarding their vision, culture and growth plans for Blexr,” Mrs Symington says. “These included an expansion into another country, which from an HR perspective brings lots of challenges and excitement.” Mrs Symington says things have changed dramatically since she started in HR, and most of this is down to technology. “The internet was not a big thing when I started and social media,

such as Facebook and LinkedIn, did not exist. Even applying for jobs was usually done by completing an application form, using a pen and your own handwriting, and the job would be advertised in the local newspapers or magazines. It was a print world then, not digital. This makes me sound so old, but it’s really a reflection of the rapid rate of change in the world, driven by technology, and HR has been carried along by that wave.”

In her view, this development has also changed how candidates approach interviews – or at least, how they should be preparing. “There’s no excuse to not know something about the company you’re applying to, as there’s usually plenty of information on the Internet,” she says. On the other hand, from the employer’s perspective, you can access a person’s profile on LinkedIn and a Google search will tell you more about them – “perhaps they’ve got an interesting hobby or run their own blog.” And of course, when it comes to the interview process, video technology makes people easily accessible, instead of having to fly them over for an interview. “This is a good way in which technology saves time and money.”


Photo by Inigo Taylor


hen it comes to her career, Tonia Symington believes it was Human Resources (HR) that chose her, not the other way


As Chief People Officer, Mrs Symington believes good employees are essential to the success of any business. “Having employees understand Blexr’s vision and believe in what they are doing is vital to our growth and continued success,” she says. “Employee empowerment allows the business to benefit from its talented workforce, and they in turn get to grow in confidence as they succeed in their roles. Blexr has an awesome group of talented and hard-working people, and it’s a pleasure to work with them. We have a clear vision and identity, combined with honest leadership and a culture of collaboration, with as little politics as possible.”

Nowadays, when hiring new employees, Mrs Symington observes that there is a much greater focus on cultural fit. “We seek to recruit people who reflect the values held by the senior management team. We look for people who are passionate about what they do, confident in their abilities, reliable and positive. We don’t mind if someone makes an error, so long as they learn from the experience and fix it.” “It’s important to take ownership when things don’t work out and take steps to correct it. We also like those who have good team spirit and are proactive. You need to work hard at Blexr, but we make sure you get rewarded for putting the effort in.” And what do those rewards consist of? “Work-life balance is important to us and we demonstrate that to all our staff. We offer flexible working, and our exceptional benefits package puts us ahead of the game,” Mrs Symington explains.

“We make our working environment fun and exciting, so our staff feel good about coming to work each day rather than feeling that they’re going down a coal mine. It is a fun environment, with a family-orientated feeling that is lacking in some of the big corporates. We believe that when staff are having fun, they work together better and produce better work.” “We’re all specialised in our own areas and allow our employees to craft their own tactics and follow them through. We team up with people at the top of their game, who know there is more for them to give and achieve. We support growth and promotion from within and succession planning is key for us, as our team continues to expand.” Mrs Symington elaborates by saying Blexr is still growing rapidly in Malta, with plans to double the workforce by the end of 2019. “We are also now spreading our wings a little further by opening an office in Barcelona early next year. This means a lot of recruitment, as we need talented people to join our expanding team. It also gives our staff in Malta the chance to move to Barcelona and experience working in a different country.” “We always need high-quality, passionate and fun people to join us. My job is to bring them in and then make sure they grow and are happy while they’re part of the Blexr family.”







Intercontinental Hotel, St Julian’s, Malta

Grimaldi Forum, Monaco





The Artillery Garden at the HAC, London, UK

Bangkok, Thailand




Inter Expo Centre, Sofia, Bulgaria


Paris, Las Vegas, USA

THURSDAY 17TH ASK GAMBLERS AWARDS Hyatt Regency, Belgrade, Serbia


THURSDAY 24TH EGR NORDICS AWARDS 2019 Corinthia Hotel St George’s Bay, St Julian’s, Malta

Syon Park, London



Hilton, Grand Master’s Suite, Malta



Excel London, UK



Excel London, UK


WEDNESDAY 20TH EGR AUSTRALIA POWER SUMMIT 2019 Four Seasons, Sydney, Australia



Never miss an appointment – here are all the most important iGaming events, trade shows and conferences happening worldwide over the next few months.

MARCH 2019

MAY 2019



Andel’s by Vienna House, Prague, Czech Republic

Vilnius, Lithuania



Stamford Bridge, London, UK

Boston Convention Exhibition Centre, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

APRIL 2019



Nicosia, Cyprus

New York, USA





From newly-graduated marketer to CCO of one of the top iGaming companies in the world, Malta has shaped some key milestones in Ronni Hartvig’s life. Here he chats to Jo Caruana about that exciting 13-year adventure and explains how, at some point in it all, Malta became home.




onni Hartvig’s journey to Malta started out like so many others in the expat circle – he came here fresh out of university, ready to take on a job in iGaming. “It was 2005 and I had just finished my education in Denmark,” he tells me. “Coincidentally, I had chosen to write my dissertation about a Danish gaming company that was trying to penetrate the Polish market, and which was based in Malta. When I finished, the founder and CEO asked if I would move to the island too to work on CRM and marketing. Fresh from uni, I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea!” Ronni’s first impression of Malta was a good one, and he spent his first few days on the island wandering around and getting to know the place. “It was the end of October, so winter had started back home and the temperature was plummeting. Here, though, the evenings were still balmy and the atmosphere was relaxed and summery. I can remember thinking that, if things went well, I would stay for a couple of years to make the most of it.”

Photos by Alan Carville

But that’s where Ronni’s plan ended and life took over. Fast-forward 13 years and he is still enjoying life in Malta. All that’s changed is that he is now the CCO for iGaming mega-company Betsson, and he is settled here with his Maltese wife and their three young children. “So much has happened!” he grins, looking back on those early days on the island. “I did actually move away from Malta for a while – as I shifted to London to work – but I realised that London wasn’t right for me and I had already met my future wife and fallen in love back in Malta.”


Thus, it wasn’t too long before he returned to the call of the island to work for another iGaming company and develop his relationship. Meanwhile, Ronni also played football semi-professionally for the premier league football team Birkirkara for around five years, which he says really helped to integrate him into life here. “I did leave the island for a second time,” he continues, explaining that he and his wife moved to Denmark and then Italy for three years, while working in a completely different sector – the medical device industry. “Then, in April 2015, I was contacted by the former CEO of Betsson Group and offered a position, so I decided to make the leap for a third time. I am so glad I did… Malta has proved to be a great place to live, and especially to raise our family.” In fact, Ronni has plenty of praise for the island – including the short travel distances and the fact that ‘life is easier here’. “When you’ve got three small people in tow, it helps to live on a small island!” he quips. “There’s no winter boots to pull on before you get out the door, and no heavy jackets for most of the year. I like the culture too, and the fact you don’t even need to plan to meet up with friends – you just go for a walk and you’re bound to bump into someone. It’s a very sociable existence.” >



On the flip side, though, there are a few things that do get to Ronni about Malta – not least the ‘classic’ complaint of the moment: the never-ending traffic. “I can’t understand why more isn’t being done to solve the problem,” he says. “Something needs to happen because it’s becoming impossible. We recently moved from Attard to Mellieha, and it now takes me less time to get to the office in Ta’ Xbiex than it used to, which is nuts when you consider how much shorter the distance is. We need more options for good public transport, and soon.” Ronni gets around this frustration by heading out into the Maltese countryside, or staying in the north – the part of the island he now calls home. “Like so many other expats here, I spent the first six months of my time in Malta sticking to

Sliema and St Julian’s; I don’t think I left once,” he laughs. “But I soon discovered what I was missing out on. Valletta, Mellieha, Dingli Cliffs, Gozo… they are all beautiful and there is so much to see and do (and there’s much less traffic and far less ugly buildings!). Malta keeps on giving, in that way. If you look beyond the obvious, you’ll find there is a never-ending list of things to discover.” >




As for his work-life, Ronni is also constantly-challenged by the fastpaced demands of the iGaming industry – and he loves it. “It may sound like a cliché but ours is a world that changes so rapidly that we have to constantly stay one step ahead. But it’s so exciting, and I really feel privileged to work in this field and to get to interact with the truly outstanding, young and multicultural team we have here at Betsson. When people talk about iGaming in Malta – and even recall its very roots on the island – it’s always all about Betsson, and I am proud to be part of that. We enjoy being who we are.”

RONNI’S FAVOUR ITES Movie: All sorts of documentarie

“IF YOU LOOK BEYOND THE OBVIOUS, YOU’LL FIND THERE IS A NEVER-ENDING LIST OF THINGS TO DISCOVER.” And it’s with that in mind that Ronni takes stock – not just of his dynamic 13-year career, but the family and life he has built here on the island. He is pleased he chose Malta. “I sincerely hope that the iGaming industry will keep developing in Malta because I want to live my life here, to keep growing my career here, and to take the Betsson Group to new levels here. I honestly don’t think there is a better place out there in the world for us right now, so our plan is to keep focusing, keep growing and keep enjoying – both at home, and at work.”

s Restaurant: Lore & Fitch for a good ste ak Book: Leading by Alex Ferguson Drink: A cold Corona City break: Back home in Copenhage n Artist: Coldplay Maltese word: Mhux hekk* Sports: Football although I love all


Designer: Hugo Boss *A multipurpose phrase that usually means ‘isn’t that so?’ or ‘are you serious?’


WINTER 2018/2019 KNOW



475,700 GMT +1 (94 per cent Maltese, 6 per cent foreign)


per cent


3.8 per cent


1.6 per cent



54.9 per cent


with positive outlook (Fitch)





23OC (day)




EURO 316 KM²







Sources: Eurostat, National Statistics Office (NSO), AirMalta



A HOME RUN Finding a great place to have dinner in Malta is no trouble at all – in fact, you’re spoilt for choice. iGaming Capital teamed up with GuideMeEats from for a series of independent and unbiased restaurant reviews. This time we’re heading to Noni in Valletta, where there’s something wonderful in the air.


pening its doors last December, Noni, a beautifully-restored bakery-turnedrestaurant has been on my radar for a while. Housed in a place formerly known for its confectionary creations and more recently repurposed as a jazz bar, I’d heard tales of Chef Jonathan Brincat’s mastery and penchant for putting a modern twist on traditional dishes, and now that the weather has finally taken a turn for the chilly, I couldn’t wait to give this cosy eatery a try.


Photo by Brian Grech



Photo by Brian Grech


The chance finally presented itself on a weekday, and I set off to the capital, eager dining partner and healthy appetite in tow. As the waiter led us down the stairs to the dining room, Noni’s popularity became immediately apparent – the place was packed! And as we settled in and glanced around at our fellow diners, each animated in conversation as they tucked into their dinners, our excitement began to build.

The service, while polite and friendly, was initially slow. We waited a while for our menus – a length of time perhaps amplified by our hunger levels – but were quick to forgive. Once our choices were made, the service became a symphony of efficiency, with a tasty little appetiser being delivered to our table tout de suite. The complimentary mushroom pannacotta served with pickled onions was a divine way to start, boasting an intense wild mushroom flavour, and certainly did its bit to whet the appetite. So much so that as we waited for our starters, we couldn’t resist tucking into the accompanying warm bread, generously dabbed in olive oil.

A few short minutes later, our starters arrived – mine, fish and shellfish soup served with a crab cake and garlic aioli, and his, spaghetti from Gragnano with local prawns, prawn bisque and preserved lemon. With mine, the spectacle began with the presentation. Placing the bowl gently on the table and giving me a good view of the crab cake within, the waiter went on to delicately pour





the soup over. And let me say, the performance was certainly worthy of the main event. The soup was rich and luxuriant, complemented perfectly by the lemony tang of the crab cake. The pasta on the other end of the table meanwhile, was fragrant and inviting, described by my companion as boasting a delicate balance of prawn bisque with a zesty aftertaste. A dish that evolves with every bite, he said that he could eat it all day and never tire of it, and, quite frankly, I believe him. The mains were to follow between sips of Marsovin’s flavourful organic Marnisi, and after hitting a home run with the starters, we couldn’t wait to see what the chef had in store. My choice was wintry favourite lamb, though the way in which it was presented was like nothing I’d tried before. The roasted lamb rump was served alongside a helping of moussaka, topped with crumbled feta and lamb jus, and the combined flavours were nothing short of poetry. The meat was smooth as silk, with the feta providing a wonderful milky pairing, and the moussaka, made as it always should be, using minced lamb, added another unexpected element to the dish that elevated it to a level above any other I’ve sampled for some time. While I maintain that the lamb was the star, my dining companion was equally impressed. His choice of rib-eye (a special on the day) served with triple-cooked chips was well smoked and cooked to his specifications. “It could be used as a poster child for how a medium-rare steak ought to be cooked,” he said, impressed, between mouthfuls. The smoking intensified the flavour without being overpowering, making it, by his own admission, one of the best steaks he’s had locally in a long time. Seems like there’s something in the air in this place – or rather, in the kitchen!

CT VERDI 5/5 d o o F 4/5 e ic v r Se 4/5 Ambience 4/5 e u l a V .com memalta


Photo by Brian Grech

For the briefest of moments, I considered opting out of dessert. Thankfully, I came to my senses in time to order Noni’s much talked about Te fit-Tazza – a play on the traditional Maltese favourite in the form of a black tea and condensed milk mousse, topped with lemon ricotta and lemon froth. The best way I can think to describe the result is interesting, though certainly not in an unpleasant way. The black tea flavour comes through and is pleasingly undercut by the lemon ricotta, while the biscuit crumbs add another dimension, bringing it back to its starting point and calling to mind childhood memories of dipping biscuits into a steaming cup of tea. We hadn’t even left our table at Noni before we began planning our next visit. Whether that works more as a vote of confidence for the restaurant or a testament to our insatiable gluttony is another matter altogether, and one I’ll leave for you to decide.




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COACH Marion Gamel is a C-level executive with over 20 years of experience. Having started her career as an entrepreneur, she then worked for Google and Eventbrite, and was Chief Marketing Officer of Betsson Group. Marion has been coaching entrepreneurs, founders and C-executives around the world since 2015. In this regular column, she provides advice to business leaders to empower them on issues ranging from improving efficiency to driving transformation and international growth within the company. Dear Marion, I am the founder of a small but modestly successful iGaming company, with ambitious plans to grow further and expand our reach and product offering. Everything seems to be going well, and my current employees are brilliant and driven, but there’s just one problem – I’m not managing to attract the kind of additional talent that I need for the company to grow. Is it because the company is too ‘unknown’, or could it be that we’re sending out the wrong signals to potential hires? I’m worried that if we don’t find the personnel we need, we might end up stagnating – or even worse, having our best people poached by a bigger, stronger, rival. I could really use a few pointers on how to tackle this, especially considering how competitive the job market in Malta is. Sincerely, Talent-troubled CEO



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Dear CEO, Most companies understand that their workforce is at the root of success and failure. Yet, all companies encounter ‘talent issues’. And talent issues, just like a bad toothache, rarely go away by themselves. There are a number of efficient ways to overcome talent challenges. The solution starts with a two-step approach. First – assess your company’s real talent situation. Second – implement a sufficient level of agility to tackle talent issues. And remember, HR can’t do it all on their own!

ASSESSING YOUR TALENT SITUATION Start by focusing your energy on assessing your company’s real talent situation. It is, of course, a project that your Chief Talent Officer should lead, but can’t fully own. Choose a handful of recent business disappointments, as well as some remarkable business successes, and find out how talent – skills, manpower, leadership, organisation – specifically contributed to how well (or how badly) the project went. The key here is to start with your business reality, to understand what talent learnings or blind spots could be lurking in the corner, and fuelling future success and failure.


Don’t start your thinking process about talent by focusing on statistics, such as attrition, for instance. Such data – although interesting – is not the end game. Your business achievements and misses are the end game. What did the company recently succeed and fail to achieve, and what is the talent situation fuelling these results?

ONLY DEEP CHANGES BRING BIG CHANGES Talent is often expected to be ‘an HR thing’ when in reality, talent is only as good as your leaders’ focus on it. HR can help, but if your leaders are not ready to change the way they behave, your talent issues won’t go away. So, before we dive into concrete actions that you can put in place, ask yourself this: am I willing to put in the effort to represent the company on social media? Are my leaders confident enough to put in place their own succession planning? Are we as an organisation agile enough to consider today things that were a no-go 10 years ago, such as flexible hours or remote working? If an organisation can’t change its ways, its talent issues won’t go away. Let’s look now at the main pillars of good talent management.


Recruitment is often an afterthought. A lack of manpower or skills is addressed when it has been creating problems for some time. But no problem seems to ever be solved that way because, in the meantime, more talent gaps become apparent in an endless circle. The solution is to start planning for talent needs, based on long-term business objectives. If you know today that you need to double your revenue in the next three years, it is feasible for function leaders to plan the workforce as well as the skills that will be required in 12, 24 and 36 months. A function leader should know at any time what talent will need to be in the house, by when. Approximation is 10 times better than to try attracting talent in a reactive, panicky manner. Planning for future talent needs, according to business objectives, is the only way to pre-empt the talent gap. And the C-suite needs to lead by example. Furthermore, planning ahead, your talent needs to empower your recruitment team to build a pipeline of candidates that are kept ‘warm’ until the time comes to hire. >

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ATTRACT THE TALENT YOU NEED While identifying talent needs is a fairly straightforward planning exercise, attracting top talent is a challenge. Cutting corners is not an option: It is a false assumption that appointing a good head hunter at the last minute will result in glorious results. Head hunters are not magicians. If your company is not attractive, if your leaders are not appealing to candidates, you will not attract the best and you will need to inflate salaries indefinitely to attract the second best. So, what should you do? The answer is simple – adapt now to today’s realities. Employees are very vocal on social media and websites, so if your company culture or employees’ satisfaction are not optimal, candidates will hear about it. Your employees influence your future workforce – put a plan in place to address this. In addition to your company culture, your leaders are also in the limelight. Every company should today demand of its senior leaders that they are vocal on social media. Any candidate worth his weight in salt will check what the leader of a department he’s considering joining is tweeting or blogging about or presenting at conferences. Make it easy for candidates to answer the question “why do you want to join our company?” Today’s talent checks out their potential employer as much as they are being scrutinised as candidates.

HOW TO RETAIN TOP TALENT Keep them on their toes. When people feel they are learning, they stick around for the next chapter. Ask random employees what they’ve learned in the last three months. If they can’t think of anything, there’s a problem. HR can help you explore tools such as rotation programmes. Offer lateral moves to employees so they can learn about various functions, and encourage geographical mobility. Make them part of a great story. Everyone loves a story and aspires to be part of an adventure. So, tell them the story! Why do you do what you do? What is your long-term vision? How are you improving customers’ lives every day? What added value do you bring to society? Let them know they’re contributing to a greater good. From an early age, one of the greatest sources of fulfilment is to feel useful. Knowing that things would not be quite as good, had you not been around, is invaluable. So make your workforce feel valued by listing achievements and contributors. Congratulate people by name, be specific about what they did and how it impacted the result. Encourage employees to nominate super-contributors. Encourage leaders to send an email or walk to someone’s desk. And always stay authentic, as nothing is more patronising than to congratulate people for something too small. Give them real opportunity for growth. Internal promotions and succession planning are hindered by low self-esteem and the temptation to cut corners. Indeed, it takes confidence for a leader to say “In six months’ time, employee X will be groomed and ready to take on my role.” But a company that does not insist on impeccable succession planning is as irresponsible as a parent who thinks himself immortal. Lack of succession planning results in promoting employees who are not ready to take on a role. The result is an entire line of under-trained, under-prepared leaders. The solution is a three-step approach. First, help leaders in your organisation gain confidence, make them feel valued and secure in their role. It’s not because succession planning is in place that they are replaceable. On the contrary, failing to organise succession planning is a major mistake. Second, demand that succession planning is in place by a set deadline and for at least the top three levels of seniority in your company. Third, make the process of internal promotions as watertight as your recruitment process. Never promote someone prematurely just because you have an empty box in your organigram. An empty box is indeed a headache. But because it is on your mind, you will fix it, whereas a badlyfilled role will give you the illusion that all is well, when in reality, you’ve just introduced a weak link in the chain. So, remember, dear CEO – assess the current talent situation that is fuelling your business achievements, and get ready for changes! Then make a commitment to your workforce that they’ll keep on learning and contributing in a valuable manner to a great story, while being offered real opportunities for growth. Good luck! Marion Got a question for Marion? Email her at



ACTIVE BODY, ACTIVE MIND Any casual observer of Malta from the outside would be forgiven for assuming that the only sports practised in this country are football, waterpolo, and rugby. The truth is, Malta has a huge range of sports suitable for every age, background and level of athletic ability, which provide not just physical benefits, but mental ones too. Lewis Pitcher looks at some of the lesser-known sports and activities on the islands and finds out how you can get started.

ARCHERY Archery has been present on these islands as a military skill for close to 1,000 years, but as a recreational sport it is relatively recent. It is available for people of all types, and can be easily accessed through groups such as Malta Archery, which offers facilities and equipment for rent, as well as tuition in the traditional styles. “The main benefits of archery are learning to focus, clearing the mind, and relaxation, as well as a number of physical benefits such as strengthening the spine,” says Armin Hirmer, owner of Malta Archery. A big part of developing your archery skills is muscle memory, so regular sessions are a must for those who wish to take it seriously, although sessions can be booked as oneoffs or as group events for anyone who just wishes to try it out. “Some people think they already know how to shoot and come with a prepared mindset. If you come willing to learn, it is always much easier,” Mr Hirmer advises.



FENCING Anyone who has ever attended the medieval fair at Mdina will be familiar with the clanging, grunting and heavy-handed sword-fighting style seen in any number of fantasy movies. By comparison, as Juan Formosa of the National Fencing Association of Malta puts it, “fencing is something more akin to motorised chess.” It is also unusual, in that it is available for every age group, young to old – as Mr Formosa says, “it’s never too late to start.” In Malta, the sport is competed at on an international level, and there are a number of clubs around the island which run introductory courses, all linked through the association. As a sport, fencing is as mental as it is physical, and patience is the key to learning. There are a great number of techniques and rules to learn if one wishes to compete, but the reward is a greater mind for analysis and a keener eye for detail. On top of this, as a low-impact sport, it is significantly kinder on the joints than many other popular sports, while still being great exercise and an excellent social activity above all else.

AIKIDO Deriving from what were originally ancient samurai fighting arts, aikido – the modern ‘art of peace’ is a martial art focusing more on stopping violence rather than using it. Kevin Bonanno, who is the sensei or head teacher of the Yamato Dojo, explains that anyone who is physically healthy and without serious spinal injuries can take part. “However, commitment is the most important element to making progress, as Aikido is a life-long learning process,” he shares. The dojo offers sessions three times a week, although beginners are advised to attend two to help them ease into it. There are also opportunities for more advanced sessions, as well as recognised qualifications up to MQF level 4.

TRIATHLON On the more demanding end of the scale, triathlon can rank amongst the most intense physical challenges in the world, particularly in the extreme Ironman contest incarnation. At the same time, triathletes rank among the fittest and most highlytrained athletes in the world. The regularity of training varies by the athlete’s end goal: Cyprian Vella, President of the Malta Triathlon Federation, estimates that “a typical cycling session would be at around 50km, but when one is training for the long distances, such as Ironman, these increase to 150-180km.”

Much of the benefit of aikido is mental, as the philosophy and discipline can affect most aspects of one’s life, whether in organisation or even conflict resolution in other environments. What may be most challenging for a newcomer is what Mr Bonanno describes as ‘un-learning’ common ideas about conflict and replacing them with a whole new set of approaches. Those who do will find the activity both enlightening and rewarding.

Mr Vella notes that members range from five to 80 years old, and while races can occasionally range into the hours, there are also those that span only 15 minutes. The sport is excellent for training the entire body, once someone can get past the ‘overwhelming’ appearance of the sport, and with training, quantity can always be replaced by quality. Through the foundation newcomers can find advice and support with training, no matter the level they wish to compete at. >




CLIMBING For those with a love of exploration, rock climbing may hold plenty of appeal. In Malta, the activity was born originally from British soldiers and gained momentum through visiting climbers looking for a new experience. Despite the widely-known and daunting image of scaling sheer cliff sides and Everest expeditions, in reality climbing is very accessible, with courses open to both adults and children at all levels. It is also the number one sport on this list where a beginner will see the fastest results. As Christopher Sella, of the Malta Climbing Club confirms, “progress as a beginner is fast so, once one learns the basic movement principles, climbing once or twice a week will result in visible progress.” As with starting any new hobby, there are hurdles to overcome, namely the cost of the initial equipment and human beings’ built-in fear of heights. However, Mr Sella is most enthusiastic about the physical and social benefits, which he says outweigh any cost. “The community is great, and just spending time outdoors sharing the experience with friends is half the fun!”

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS A sport that has gained a huge amount of publicity around the world recently is MMA, a mix of various martial arts and fighting styles rolled into one. The sport is famous for high-intensity and peak physical condition at the highest levels of competition, but this is far from the only aspect. “MMA is not only for competitions,” says Charlo Spiteri of Checkmates Fight Club. “Although competitions give a large amount of satisfaction and sense of achievement, we have students who take part in this sport as a hobby to reduce stress and keep fit.” To aim for competition-level ability, training sessions at least twice a day are necessary, and even casual members are encouraged to maintain a daily regimen. The demands, both in time and effort, can be substantial, but Mr Spiteri is confident that the real benefits lie in something else. “It is difficult to explain it in a few words but the friendship and bond that there is between training buddies and people training this sport is just great.” The sense of achievement, the raw adrenaline of a fight and the mental strength involved at every aspect make it a sport worth a look for the right person.

BEACH VOLLEYBALL Beach volleyball is one of the world’s most recent sports, but Malta has already made huge steps forward with Maltese representation throughout European competitions. There is a huge focus on spectacle and it is probably one of the showiest sports on the list. For example, it’s possible to score extra points by completing a spin before shooting for the goal, something entirely unique amongst modern sports. Ádám Süle, manager of the Melita Falcons Club, is adamant that, despite the high speed and intensity of the sport, it is accessible to anyone who is willing to put in the effort. Moreover, thanks to the sandy courts adding resistance to movement, he believes it gives unique exercise benefits, especially for the joints, muscles and heart. “It is expected to become an official Olympic event as of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, and smaller competitions around Europe are springing up all the time. There really is no better time to get involved in what may well become the nation’s fastest-growing sport.”




From the coolest parties to the best company perks, iGaming Capital’s Paparazzi pages showcase everything that makes the iGaming industry in Malta so much fun to be part of.


1. EBM Sundays, an Events by Martin summer series at SKYBEACH 2-4. Showers, held at Café del Mar Malta on 7th July 5. Moët Grand Day at SKYBEACH, a partnered event between Moët & Chandon and Events by Martin, held on 23rd June 6. Moët Ice Day at Café del Mar Malta, an Events by Martin event sponsored by Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial, held on 1st September 7. Ambassador Events’s exclusive five-year anniversary party held at a private villa on the Santa Maria Estate, Mellieha, on 30th June



4 6






8-12. As a way of thanking the Betssonites for all the hard work they’ve put in during the World Cup period, Betsson opened its weekly after work event for its partners as well. 8



11 12






13-16. Kidsson, Betsson’s take on ‘Bring your Kids to Work’, is organised every year and it keeps getting bigger and bigger. This year, around 70 parents took part, with over 100 children of all ages.










17-20. Betsson participated in the Malta Pride 2018 parade in Valletta, Malta, and organised an educational session with Karly May, Malta’s first transgender model to walk for three designers during the 2018 Malta Fashion Week.




21-22. GiG (Gaming Innovation Group) was the main partner of Malta Pride this year, supporting the week-long celebration between 9th and 16th September, with the theme ‘Pride in the heart of the Mediterranean.’



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23-29. The launch party of Betsoft’s Max Quest: Wrath of Ra on 12th September. The spectacular Macina in Senglea was transformed into ancient Egypt for the occasion.












30-33. Blexr held its summer party around the pool at MedAsia Playa in Qui-Si-Sana, Sliema. 33




34-35. Jackpotjoy Group enjoying sun, sea and joy during their summer team boat party in July.


36. Jackpotjoy Group’s end of summer beach party.




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37-42. The LeoVegas Mobile Gaming Group Summer Summit 2018, organised in Malta, saw all companies and offices meeting together for a full day of workshops, networking and fun.








43. NetEnt launching Jumanji, a one-of-a-kind videoslot game based on the beloved film.




44. Videoslots’ mid-summer party. 45. Videoslots were headline sponsors of the iGaming Idol Charity Poker Event held at the Dragonara Casino.



t an in iGaming Have you go t to feature an w a u yo g gatherin mpany trip, ectacular co u sp yo A t en l? ta Capi achievem u. minar, or an se yo m ul sf fro es ar cc he su to off? We want on want to show gh-res photos hi d an up erit w ur yo us Send ntenthouse.c newsroom@co



46-47. At this year’s edition of iGaming Idol, 22 outstanding people from the industry were awarded, including Hall of Fame Winner George DeBrincat.


WINTER 2018/2019 STYLE

Photos by Inigo Taylor

PRINT, PATTERN AND BEYOND Sarah Micallef catches up with Sef Farrugia, the local designer behind the eponymous luxury silk accessories and ready-towear brand, in her recentlyopened studio-shop in Rabat.


ashion and creativity have been a part of Sef Farrugia’s life for as long as she can remember. “My mother was a seamstress and my uncle is a tailor – he’s almost 70 years old now, and still working. I also had family members who were involved in timber work,” the designer reflects, as we chat about how it all began in her newlyopened studio-shop in historic Rabat. We stand around her heaving work table, just beyond Sef’s immaculately curated shop showcasing her latest accessories and


WINTER 2018/2019 STYLE


“There’s so much you can do and explore, that finding what you want to focus on can sometimes become the dilemma,” Sef explains as she recalls choosing her line during her studies. “You think you’re going to do one thing and end up focusing on another. I’m a very tactile person, even when it comes to my own wardrobe,” she continues, adding that while the seed was always there, sometimes, it takes someone to point it out for you to figure out what you’re meant to do. “My teachers pointed out that from my portfolio, it seemed that I was a textiles person, and it went from there – textiles became my focus.” That same year, Sef was labelled ‘One To Watch’ by a panel of industry experts at the Gala Show for her graduate collection,

homeware collections. Here, handdrawn illustrations, half-developed print designs and other inspiring imagery adorn the walls, giving an insight into the Maltese designer’s creative mind. Rewind a few years, and a 17-yearold Sef moved to London following a stint at MCAST Institute of Arts and Design in Malta, where she went on to study at the University of the Arts – London College of Fashion before graduating and completing her BA at Ravensbourne University in Fashion and Textiles in 2011.

recognised, among other things, for her inspired knitwear and hand-drawn prints – elements she continues to explore in her collections and, more recently, her accessories and ready-to-wear garments. >


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Earlier this year, Sef opened her first shop in Rabat, mainly focusing on accessories including scarves, bow ties, eye masks filled with dried lavender seeds, pocket squares, and an exclusive cushion collection. The designer also works on bespoke clothing orders from here, and once she has a little more help in the studio, plans on turning her attention to producing seasonal fashion collections. “There’s a lot of creativity in the accessories as I design all of the prints, but there’s a lot more we can do. Seasonal collections are where I can get really creative,” she says. Sef also mentions wanting to get back into knitwear, which was one of her specialities during her studies. “I’d really like to get back into it,” she says, explaining that although knit can be very unpredictable, it’s the imperfections that set a hand-made product apart from a mass-produced one. “Even with my prints, it’s mainly handdrawn, and I don’t like to over polish and over edit the artwork, otherwise it becomes flat. You need to find a balance,” she affirms. I direct her attention to the illustrations and mood boards attached to the walls, and ask about her creative process. The affable designer laughs. “I’m interested in learning about anything and everything, so I usually pick up on something and develop it – it could be a phase I’d be going through or something I’ve been interested in forever. The starting point is never the end point.”

When developing an idea, Sef begins with researching and sketching, trying things on the mannequin and taking it from there. “I also do a lot of illustration,” she explains, adding that it was actually her first calling before taking up fashion design. “Fashion illustration helps me envision who I’m designing for or what it’s about. The prints are also illustration in a way,” she continues. And with inspiration to be found everywhere, it begs the question: are Sef’s designs inspired by our surroundings, here in Malta? The answer however, is not as straight-forward. “Many people assume that my print designs are directly inspired by things like Maltese tiles, but while they may relate to them in that they’re Mediterranean in feel, I actually



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dislike the idea of it being so direct,” she maintains, adding that in a way, you cannot help but be inspired by your surroundings. “It’s definitely always there. If you grow up somewhere, you become submerged in it, especially when it comes to an island like Malta, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I’m just not keen on it being so literal.” And while she has yet to produce another full collection following her celebrated Casa Azul collection in 2013, Sef believes that in Malta, fashion isn’t what she calls a “a living industry”, rather a sector made up of individuals doing their own thing. “For us to have a proper industry, we’d have to have companies for manufacturing, printing, knitting… we don’t have any of that. Most local designers do it all themselves. And though there are still many seamstresses in practice, the majority work from home and rely on word of mouth to get work, so it’s difficult to find them!” she asserts, adding that when it comes to made-to-measure garments, the wedding industry is the only market that has flourished and continues to flourish in Malta.

CAST TREND FOREon e for industry trends,

be Sef Farrugia may not this thinks will be big e sh at wh but here’s . autumn/winter season SPORTSWEAR it’s around for a while and “Sportswear has been e nc ue infl of t there’s a lot really stuck. I feel tha in tic the aes an d ntry an from Russia as a cou are n, Russian designers do Lon in n Eve n. fashio nt.” really having a mome TOP-TO-TOE PRINTS h of a full-on print, wit “The whole 70s idea a is m tto bo to from top everything matching ors eri int r you ng ari as we definite trend, as well clothing.” on ric fab ery lst ho up –

Turning her attention beyond our shores, I ask, are there any designers that Sef looks up to? “I’d definitely say Azzedine Alaïa for knitwear in particular – his aesthetic is something I can relate to perhaps because he’s also from the southern Mediterranean. There are also many others, including Yves Saint Laurent. I’ve always been drawn to designers from the North African region which feature a European influence in their work. Culturally I feel that I can relate more,” she maintains. As Sef busies herself with private orders and the daily running of her studio-shop, the designer also reveals that work on her new collection has been underway for some time, and she hopes that it will be ready for fashionistas to scoop up later in 2019. “It has been in the works for a while, and the research that goes into the pieces is one of the things that I have difficulty with when it comes to knowing when to stop,” she smiles. “I’m also working on setting up a proper structure for the studio space, as well as working on launching our e-commerce website.”

“Finally, I’d also like to introduce ready-to-wear items in the shop, but with the manufacturing involved, there’s only so much we can do,” she continues, explaining that she currently only has one intern to help, but is looking to expand the team. And once she frees herself up, the sky’s the limit for the talented designer, who admits, “there’s a massive amount of work that goes into each collection, which starts from designing the fabric to producing the pieces. There’s a lot of creativity that goes into it, and I’m not happy to compromise on any of it.” Judging by her track record so far, it’ll certainly be worth the wait.


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SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN PLASTIC WASTE EXPECTED WITH THE BEVERAGE REFUND SCHEME IN MALTA Empty beverage containers contribute to the volume of waste generated in Malta, particularly in the more highly-populated and tourist areas. Waste is an environmental challenge that has serious and negative environmental and public health impacts. In the 2015 Budget speech, the Government of Malta highlighted its intention to introduce a Beverage Container Refund Scheme (BCRS). Subsequently at the Our Oceans conference in October 2017, Malta committed to the introduction of the scheme, reflecting its pledge to reduce waste going to landfill. The Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change (MESDC) has put forward the proposal for a BCRS for public consultation.

For these containers to be easily identified, the beverage containers will have a deposit refund logo that is to be stamped or affixed on the container. The labels will additionally include a barcode that is specific to the Maltese islands to reduce the risk of cross-border fraud. Through the barcode, the machine will identify the bottle as part of the scheme, allowing the user to return a used beverage container and claim back the deposit. Under the current proposal, the selected private repository operator will be required to install a minimum of 350 reverse vending machines (RVMs) around Malta and Gozo. These machines should be mainly located at retail outlets. Those outlets with 150sqm or more of floor space will be obliged to install the machines. Smaller retailer outlets would be able to opt into this scheme, possibly even through a manual collection system. The operator would also be responsible for organising the collection, counting and processing of all collected containers. Companies using refillable beverage containers can opt out of this scheme only if they show that they have an alternative system in place which produces similar or better results.

The main aim of this scheme is to encourage producers and consumers alike, to take more responsibility for their packaging waste. It also aims to reduce litter and engage the general public to increase the national efforts to reach recycling targets set by local and EU legislation. This scheme incentivises the return of used beverage containers by applying a refundable deposit to the price of the beverage. Under the scheme, a full refund will be provided for eligible, empty drink containers between 150ml and 3l in size that are returned to a participating container refund point. The scheme will apply to metal cans, plastic and glass bottles. It is the intention of Government to conduct further reviews to identify other potential beverage containers which could be included in the scheme in the future.

Collection target rates are ambitious but strong with a 70 per cent return expected for the first year, and a 10 per cent increase every consecutive year. The target commencement date for this scheme is December 2019. Further information on this sustainable scheme can be found on


WINTER 2018/2019 PRESS

ELEVATING THE NEW ORDER SYSTEM New Order 2.0 has been adapted and developed to fit the ever-changing demands of the work environment. Together with the HAY team, Stefan Diez has elevated the functionality and quality of the entire New Order system by extending the long list of customisable parts and accessories. The innovative modular system’s components now include tables in a range of heights, as well as steel doors, drawers and panels that can be added without tools and still withstand the everyday use of a busy office. Accessory elements such as cable management, textile panels, trolleys, sheet metal shelves, lighting components and screens have also evolved, and are adaptable to specific spaces and needs.

ABOUT HAY HAY was founded in 2002 with the ambition to create contemporary furniture with an eye for modern living and sophisticated industrial manufacturing. That remains our ambition today. Through our commitment to the design and production of furniture and accessories with an international appeal, we strive to make good design accessible to the largest possible audience. We are inspired by the stable structures of architecture and the dynamics of fashion, which we seek to combine in durable quality products that provide added value for the user. HAY’s continued vision is to create straightforward, functional and aesthetic design in cooperation with some of the world’s most talented, curious and courageous designers.

An unlimited amount of combinations and size possibilities allows the New Order system to grow together with your workspace.

HAY is available exclusively at LOFT Naxxar. T: 2099 9966; E:;; FB: LOFT Malta

A SMART APPROACH TO LICENSING AND COMPLIANCE Over the past years, Europe has evolved into a multi-jurisdictional regulated and licensing area, with EU states regulating online gaming on a national level. This situation brings with it huge challenges for gaming operators with continental ambitions. The myriad differing technical requirements imposed by the different regulatory regimes may bring duplicate investments in both technology and other resources, whilst multi-jurisdictional compliance has become a key business element to ensure business continuity and growth. Working this out, over and above the need to market, innovate and operate, has become a must. In this context, the importance of having trusted advisors that truly understand the gaming regulatory frameworks across Europe from a legal, regulatory, business and technological point of view, has become paramount. Headed by former regulators and multi-award-winning industry heavy weights, coupled with a team of

experienced licensing, compliance, legal and business advisors, Afilexion Alliance is one of the leading advisory firms that has been assisting clients establish themselves and grow across Europe, allowing them to concentrate on their core business. Afilexion’s smart approach allows clients to synergise licensing and compliance efforts across jurisdictions, whilst its legal innovation team is currently assisting gaming clients in their blockchain adoption plans. Afilexion’s smart approach was designed specifically to be a one-stopshop for gaming operators in terms of company incorporation, corporate services, legal, GDPR, compliance, M&As, intellectual property protection, blockchain, strategy and licensing in Malta, UK, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Denmark and Sweden. To know more about how Afilexion Alliance can be of assistance contact our Gaming Partner, Reuben Portanier, by sending an email to


WINTER 2018/2019 PRESS

A SATISFYING RESULT ACROSS TWO FLOORS AT EY MALTA EY Malta recently expanded their offices, and engaged DEX to furnish two floors. The type of services provided by EY Malta require an office environment that is welcoming to both clients and employees. The entire project included numerous spaces, such as meeting and training areas, lounges and different types of offices. DEX worked closely with the client’s architect, Janice Fiorentino at XYZ Architects, to source all the required furniture items, such as operational workstations, ergonomic swivel chairs, foldable tables and conference chairs. We were tasked with supplying glass partitions, rolling wall partitions, monoacoustic soffits, soffit tiles with hidden

structures and wall panels. The most important criteria for all these products were sound absorption and insulation, so VertiQ was the first choice for this project. The entire experience was described by Facilities Executive Josef Cassar as “a great and straightforward one.” We are proud to say that EY Malta is fully satisfied with our finished product. DEX Workspaces offers a complete range of solutions for offices, including workstations, seating, flooring, acoustic systems and partitions. Contact us at or visit our showroom at Mdina Road, Qormi.

SAMSUNG TRANSFORMS THE MODERN MEETING WITH NEW INTERACTIVE DIGITAL FLIP CHART The new Samsung Flip is a revolutionary digital flip chart display which promotes more collaborative digital engagement by alleviating the most prominent challenges businesses face when organising, facilitating and recapping meetings. An upgrade on both standard paper flip charts and analogue boards, the Samsung Flip display expands opportunities to generate gamechanging ideas while maintaining the familiar feel of traditional writing. The Samsung Flip allows easy sharing, annotation, movement and even searching, as well as the ability for

multiple users to create content at once. Through simultaneous multi-user engagement, the Samsung Flip ensures that all voices and ideas are heard during a given meeting. Up to four different participants can introduce content or annotate directly on screen at the same time using either their fingers or a dualsided pen. The Samsung Flip also offers extensive device compatibility through both wireless connectivity and USB, PC and mobile ports. For a closer look at the Samsung Flip, contact Sound Machine Co. Ltd, the exclusive Samsung distributor in Malta on 2149 7111, or visit

TRANSACTION MONITORING – A KEY COMPONENT OF AML COMPLIANCE Nowadays, it has become mandatory for compliance teams to think about regulation in a holistic way. Organisations must comply with AntiMoney Laundering (AML) rules, with the main purpose of detecting and reporting suspicious activity. AML transaction monitoring software can provide the compliance team with a complete view into a customer’s profile, risk levels and predicted future activity. There is a growing focus on monitoring every transaction, which leads to the importance of adopting a broad-based approach towards dealing with business risk. Organisations need to be able to identify unusual financial transactions


which might subsequently prove to be suspicious. The AXON transaction monitoring solution helps organisations detect suspicious behaviour quickly and effectively. It optimises transaction monitoring by automating processes in order to minimise unnecessary alerts, while also offering real-time tracking and reporting functionality. With AXON, compliance teams become more accurate and efficient in their monitoring of potentially fraudulent behaviour. Visit or email to learn more

WINTER 2018/2019 LIFE



Much as we love anything to do with sun and sea, the Maltese islands have plenty to offer during the cooler months of the year, including outdoors. Martina Said highlights some of her favourites.


Winter on the islands is relatively mild compared to our European neighbours, making it a perfect time of year to head outdoors and explore the islands’ rural side. Although sparse, it’s bountiful in its offering – from historic remains and incredible sea views to stunning natural features, there’s a scenic walk for every kind of adventurer. Head north towards Mellieha and Selmun for coastal walks, or towards Dingli for a stroll along the cliffs that overlook open Mediterranean waters as far as the eye can see. Alternatively, Mgarr and its surroundings – including Gnejna Bay and the nearby clay slopes – offer plenty of routes that simply beg to be explored on foot. Towards the south of the island, there are plenty of walking opportunities – a personal favourite is Wied Babu, a lush valley in the limits of Żurrieq which is virtually unspoiled.

Photo by Bernice Yeomans

WINTER 2018/2019 LIFE

2. VISIT A HERITAGE SITE Despite its physical limitations as a tiny island in the middle of the Med, Malta and its sister island, Gozo, are brimming with historical wonders, and that’s no exaggeration. If prehistory is what fascinates you, then you’re seriously spoilt for choice. In Qrendi, within 500 metres of each other, lie two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Mnajdra Temples and Hagar Qim Temples, both of which date back to the Ggantija phase in Malta’s prehistory phase between 3,600 and 3,200BC. In nearby Birżebbuga, there’s Ghar Dalam cave, considered to be around 500,000 years old, within which fossil bones of dwarf elephants and hippopotami, among many other animals, were discovered. In Gozo, pay a visit to the Ggantija Temples, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built using coralline limestone megaliths, some of which weigh over 50 tonnes.

Photo by William Attard McCarthy

3. SLEEP UNDER THE STARS Not literally, but close enough. Pack a bag with warm clothes and plenty of blankets to shield yourself from the cold and humidity, and set up camp somewhere far from the island’s busy streets and brightly-lit roads to take in the beautiful night sky. You may opt to pitch a tent at an actual camp site, such as the one located at the limits of Mellieha, known as L-Ahrax, or brave a somewhat more remote location, such as Xwejni Bay in Gozo or Xghajra in Malta. Take all the necessary supplies with you and be prepared to rough it – but the rewards should be well worth it.


4. TIME TO PICNIC The best time of year to picnic is between November and April, after which it becomes unbearably hot pretty fast. The Maltese way of picnicking is quite simple – pack plenty of food and drink supplies, find a spot of greenery that isn’t already occupied by other enthusiastic picnic goers, and drop some chairs and blankets to secure the area. Fomm ir-Rih and Selmun in the north are worthy options, both of which require a short-but-rugged trek to access, so pack wisely. Alternatively, head to Miżieb, a small woodland area in the limits of Manikata; Mtahleb and its surroundings in the limits of Rabat; or the lush countryside surrounding the tiny village of Bidnija, for a peaceful afternoon under the winter sun. >


WINTER 2018/2019 LIFE



5. HOP ON A FERRY Although so close, Malta and Gozo have distinctive features that set them miles apart. Most obvious is the pace of life in Gozo – it’s calmer, slower and generally more laid-back, forcing you to take a break and enjoy the many pleasures it offers. Rent a quad bike (but pack an anorak in case it rains) and tour the island’s coastline with little more than a backpack in four-wheel style, walk through quaint village streets that exist around every corner, head to the capital of Rabat and explore the historic Cittadella which has one of the best vantage points on the island, and indulge in delicious local cuisine offered by many a local eatery. While it does tend to get busy on weekends, a visit to it-Tokk is a must – a small piazza in Rabat lined with cafés and street hawkers on Sundays, but which offers some amusing opportunities for people-watching.

Photo by Malcolm Debono

6. HEAD TO THE CAPITAL On any given day throughout the year, Malta’s capital city, Valletta, can offer something for everyone. The 500-year-old city is home to some of the island’s finest attractions – up there on the list is the St John’s Co-Cathedral, a gem of Baroque art and architecture which was built as the conventual church for the Knights of St John, and a must-see for art and history buffs. Pay a visit to Fort St Elmo, the Grandmaster’s Palace, the National Museum of Archaeology and Casa Rocca Piccola to learn about the islands’ past, and if it’s more culture you’re after, there are many art galleries, theatres, and open-air spaces around the city to whet your appetite.


Photo by Delicata

Over the years, Malta’s wine offering has improved in droves, and the cooler months are an opportune time of year to wander between lush vines, ending your experience with some wine sampling. Among the species of grapes grown locally are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, as well as the indigenous varieties, Gellewża and Girgentina. Malta’s main wineries, including Emmanuel Delicata, Marsovin, Meridiana and Ta’ Mena Estate in Gozo, offer guided tours and tastings, and the opportunity to buy your favourite vino. >


WINTER 2018/2019 LIFE


8. SPLASH SOME CASH You could always ditch nature, history and culture in favour of something a little more hedonistic, and shopping should do the trick. Valletta is the ideal place for breezing in and out of high street shops in between eating and sightseeing, while St Julian’s is the right destination for the more discerning shopper, home to a selection of high-end designer shops as well as Bay Street Shopping Complex, which is open daily from 10am to 10pm. The undisputed shopping mecca of Malta, however, is Sliema – specifically a handful of main streets that house the largest variety of shops and brands, as well as two shopping malls.

9. KICK BACK AND CHILL Where better to do that than at a spa? Many of Malta’s finest hotels offer topnotch spa services, complete with all the trimmings you’d seek on a relaxing day out. You might not be willing to brave the outdoor pool (or would you?) during winter, but there are plenty of other indoor pleasures to avail yourself of, such as steam rooms, indoor pools, Turkish Hammam treatments, mud baths and grooming services while drab and dreary weather rages on outside.

10. DINE OUT If you’ve been living on the island long enough, it must have become clear to you fast that one pleasure the Maltese never get enough of is food, both when it comes to feeding people and being fed. Eating out and sampling different cuisines in good company is a joy that we never tire of, and the islands’ restaurant scene has never been healthier for exploring flavours that span the globe.


Photo by


iGaming Capital Winter 2018/2019  
iGaming Capital Winter 2018/2019