MALTA GAMING AUTHORITY CEO, CARL BRINCAT, ON THE INDUSTRY’S FUTURE
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MALTA’S IGAMING LANDSCAPE – DEVELOPMENTS AND TRENDS IN 2021
SUMMER 2021 CONTENTS
MALTA’S IGAMING INDUSTRY IN 2021
The latest industry developments, and the trends and possibilities that lie ahead this year.
16 A RESILIENT JOBS MARKET
How have the events of 2020 impacted the iGaming jobs market? Specialised recruitment companies weigh in.
INTRODUCING IGAMINGCAPITAL.MT: A NEW VOICE FOR THE INDUSTRY
Jesmond Bonello, Managing Director of Content House, reveals what to expect from the new iGaming news platform.
30 PULLING THE SAME ROPE TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE AND COMPLIANT GAMING INDUSTRY
Carl Brincat, Chief Executive Officer of the Malta Gaming Authority, shares his plans for the regulator.
LEADING THE WAY ON THE NEW HYBRID OFFICE
A GLOBAL APPROACH
CEO of Globiance, Oliver La Rosa, on his company’s mission to help clients take charge of their financial freedom.
As Betsson launches its new Hybrid WFH model, Chief HR Officer, Lena Nordin, discusses what it’s all about.
SUMMER 2021 CONTENTS
58 A NEW ERA FOR RECRUITMENT IN IGAMING
The team at specialised recruitment firm, Boston Link, delves into the latest industry trends.
62 MAKING THE CASE FOR RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING
Fresh from the launch of QuitGamble.com, Founder Anders Bergman is driving the change he wishes to see in the industry.
BOLSTERING INTEGRITY AND SECURITY
An analysis of the Malta Gaming Authority’s new platform portal dedicated to the reporting of suspicious transactions.
ENSURING EXCELLENCE IN A HOLISTIC AND ACCESSIBLE COVID-19 TESTING SERVICE
Lead Clinical Pharmacist at Brown’s Pharma, Elena Zarb, explains the pharmacy chain’s role in containing the spread of COVID-19.
‘IT IS VERY EASY TO LIVE IN MALTA’
PUSHING THE LIMITS OF OUTSTANDING OFFICE DESIGN
Having touched down in Malta over four years ago, Hanna Lerenius discusses her reasons for staying.
A peek inside the recently refurbished, and stunning, offices of Betsson Group.
SUMMER 2021 FOREWORD
SUMMER 2021 FOREWORD
The iGaming industry in 2021 In 2021, Malta’s iGaming industry appears to have taken the many challenges of 2020 in its stride, proving its resilience as one of the island’s major economic contributors. As, while last year was marred by several obstacles – not least the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic – there’s a palpable sense of optimism that the industry has turned a corner. This issue, we explore the latest developments that will have a bearing on the future of the industry for years to come, including from a regulatory perspective, as the Malta Gaming Authority and Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit strengthened their commitment to combat financial crime and restore the industry’s hard-earned reputation. From a jobs market perspective, recruitment experts share their views on the status of the industry, highlighting where it’s heading and the new recruitment trends spurred by the pandemic that companies must take in their stride to stay ahead of the competition. In an interview with the new MGA Chief Executive Officer, Carl Brincat shares his plans and priorities for the regulator moving forward, while Anders Bergman, Founder of QuitGamble.com, talks us through his journey from working with an affiliate company to setting up a platform dedicated to helping players with a gambling addiction. As we were heading to print, the news emerged that notwithstanding Moneyval’s recent positive review on Malta, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has decided to greylist the country. We sincerely hope that the Government and relevant national authorities will do their absolute utmost to continue implementing the necessary reforms and taking all the major decisions needed to ensure that Malta will be out of the greylist in the shortest time possible, to minimise the damage on our reputation and the economy, and to safeguard the future of the iGaming industry in Malta. We hope you enjoy the issue.
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SUMMER 2021 COVER STORY
Moneyval, COVID-19 and increased regulatory pressure are just some of the challenges that the iGaming industry has faced over the past year. How have these impacted their recruitment efforts and the iGaming jobs market? Martina Said speaks to recruitment specialists to find out.
ven before the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, the jobs market for the iGaming sector was beginning to face an uphill battle. Property prices for expats relocating to Malta were becoming out of reach for many, the controversies surrounding Moneyval put Malta as a jurisdiction in an increasingly unpleasant light, and then, of course, a global pandemic threw all businesses into a state of perpetual uncertainty – at least at the beginning. Although many industries continue to combat the challenges posed by the pandemic and the sudden greylisting of Malta by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the iGaming sector appears to have bounced back fairly swiftly and smoothly. As early as last year, many operators noticed a spike in businesses, which has been largely credited to the increased amount of time people have spent indoors, leading companies to recruit more staff to keep up with demand. George Tabone, Head of Service
Delivery at recruitment firm Konnekt, says the recruitment market in iGaming is indeed picking up, but 2020 wasn’t without its obstacles for the sector. “Undoubtedly, 2020 was an unprecedentedly challenging year, yet it was an eye-opener on various fronts especially when it comes to recruitment. We found ourselves in a people-oriented business, meeting candidates and clients face-to-face daily, and being told to try and recreate this dynamic in an online setting,” says Mr Tabone. He asserts that while technology was the company’s saving grace, the team had to come to terms with taking its most cherished relationships online, in a virtual setting. “We had a few hiccups initially but took it in our stride and many of these changes have raised the bar for a more thorough recruitment process and more attention to the candidate journey. We are pretty confident that these changes will stick around long after the pandemic threat diminishes.”
SUMMER 2021 COVER STORY
Speaking about the iGaming recruitment market, Mr Tabone asserts that it is now picking up after a slight dip during 2020. “The online world has given a different dimension to the recruitment needs of the sector, which has now become more data-driven,” he explains. “We are seeing an increased demand for high-quality candidates with diverse data-led skillsets. Moneyval was also a catalyst for many iGaming companies to heavily invest in more robust compliance and AntiMoney Laundering (AML) teams, and this has been reflected in the recruitment requests.” The agility and ability of businesses to adapt quickly to the situations around them have helped businesses turn things around, Mr Tabone asserts, adding that, compared to 2020, there is an increase in interesting vacancies across all industries, a result he attributes to different efforts from various fronts. “Usually, such a surge in job vacancies is a sign of a very healthy economy, whereas now, it is more a sign of an economy moving out of lockdown. COVID is still around and will continue to be,” says Mr Tabone. “One needs to learn how to adapt to working with and not against it. Businesses have taken measures, at times drastic ones, that safeguarded the company and their employees. Reaping the fruit of such measures will definitely be the next step forward.” Reflecting on Malta’s unemployment rate, Mr Tabone says that the situation locally compares well to that of larger economies, sharing that, according to National Statistics Office figures published this year, the unemployment rate in Malta averaged 4.4 per cent in January 2021 compared to 3.4 per cent in January 2020.
While the iGaming sector has experienced setbacks since the start of the pandemic, in general, Mr Tabone says that, given the nature of the industry, its profit margins and its robust online presence, most companies moved to remote working ensuring a smooth change in operations, while the fact that more people were spending time at home meant that more players signed up to play, which in turn provided operators with an increase in revenues. “The Work From Home (WFH) realities will possibly pose more challenges to recruiters while shortlisting candidates. Although technical requirements will always be of utmost priority, there are other soft skills requirements that will be as important since employees will be working with the team virtually,” he asserts, highlighting skills such as teamwork, adaptability, communication and collaboration. “Moreover, companies will now have to adopt new benefits aligned with WFH realities, such as contribution
“THE ONLINE WORLD HAS GIVEN A DIFFERENT DIMENSION TO THE RECRUITMENT NEEDS OF THE SECTOR, WHICH HAS NOW BECOME MORE DATA-DRIVEN.” George Tabone, Head of Service Delivery, Konnekt
“Furthermore, Malta’s consistent healthy economic growth over the past decade has put the country in an advantageous position for Government to intervene. Businesses are also taking a more positive yet cautious approach to growth,” he asserts. “It looks like the economy will start recuperating from a 7 per cent downfall in 2020 to a forecasted 4.6 per cent growth for Malta in 2021, which is slightly above the Eurozone average, and 6.1 per cent in 2022 according to EU Commission forecasts.”
SUMMER 2021 COVER STORY
Photo by Justin Mamo
“THE INDUSTRY IS MATURING, AND THE AGENCIES THAT GO BY THE OLD WAYS WILL NEED TO ADAPT TO CATER FOR HIGHER STANDARDS.” Carl-Henrik Larneryd, Chief Executive Officer, Scandistaff Limited
costs, childcare cost support and increased flexibility,” says Mr Tabone. “As companies recruit and retain people from new talent pools with new skillsets, realigning company culture to adhere to the needs of candidates has become extremely important.” On behalf of recruitment company Scandistaff Limited, which is specialised in the iGaming and FinTech sectors, Chief Executive Officer, Carl-Henrik Larneryd, believes that the biggest challenge for the iGaming industry, and many others, was making the shift from the office to having, more or less, an entire workforce working remotely. “I believe that most companies managed this very well and the most exciting thing about this, in my opinion, is the insights and facts it has brought us. Do we need to work from the office every day? Did the transition from office to home improve or decline productivity? Are there possibilities to offer more appealing employment and at the same time reduce costs? How will employees feel about returning to the office after getting used to working from the comfort of their home?” Mr Larneryd says different people will offer different answers, “but I am rather confident that quite a large number of people would like to continue working from home a few days a week – and employers who cater for that will have an advantage in employer branding and staff retention.”
The CEO continues that an undoubtedly negative consequence of the pandemic was the lack of conferences and arenas for people to meet, especially account managers, affiliate managers and suppliers. “The iGaming industry is very tight and requires regular meeting places to create connections and establish business deals. I believe that there is a huge demand for these conferences to resume when we are in the clear.” Following a dip in the number of vacancies in the sector last year, Mr Larneryd says this has changed in 2021, and vacancies are now increasing, which he attributes to various factors. “For one, I think that many vacancies were on hold during a major part of 2020 as there was uncertainty on how to onboard staff remotely, and when/if the COVID situation would ease. I think we have now come to terms with it and realise that the show must go on, and we must adapt to what we have to work with. The past year clearly had a negative impact on sports betting with fewer sport events taking place, but the casino market has remained stable and, in some cases, increased.” On this note, Mr Larneryd says that a thriving iGaming industry is positive for his company as it logically results in an increased demand for staff. “However, one should consider that increased financial results do not always mean that there needs to be more headcount. It all depends on whether the customer base has increased, VIPs are spending more, or even whether actions have been taken internally to automate and increase efficiency.” >
SUMMER 2021 COVER STORY
“MALTA IS ONE OF THE BEST PLACES IN THE WORLD TO PROGRESS YOUR CAREER IN THE IGAMING SECTOR. COVID-19 HAS NOT CHANGED THIS – IGAMING COMPANIES IN MALTA WILL CONTINUE TO INVEST IN THE ATTRACTION AND RETENTION OF TALENTED PEOPLE.”
Looking ahead, the Scandistaff CEO believes that, moving forward, employers will start to demand a higher level of professionalism from agencies, “and that the past ‘shotgun’ approach will no longer be tolerated. The industry is maturing, and the agencies that go by the old ways will need to adapt to cater for higher standards,” he asserts, adding that the recruitment industry will likely see an increase in positions in the fields of legal, compliance, and AML due to increased regulation and greater enforced gaming licence requirements. Julian Perigo, Managing Director at specialised recruitment company Boston Link, says 2020 was an exceptional year in many ways for the iGaming industry. “Moneyval, banks de-risking, Wirecard, increased regulation, cancelled sporting events – 2020 has thrown up numerous challenges to the iGaming industry and, for many companies, COVID-19 has been the least of their worries!” This inevitably resulted in a dip in the number of new vacancies in 2020. Mr Perigo had previously stated that during the first lockdown in 2020, there was a 25 per cent to 30 per cent decrease in the number of jobs available in the sector. However, in 2021, the situation appears to have turned a corner. “Business doesn’t like uncertainty, and the last 12 months have been full of it. From COVID-19 to Moneyval to the regulatory landscape, the picture is steadily becoming clearer, and this gives companies the confidence to crack on with their hiring plans.”
Julian Perigo, Managing Director, Boston Link
“Malta is one of the best places in the world to progress your career in the iGaming sector. COVID-19 has not changed this – iGaming companies in Malta will continue to invest in the attraction and retention of talented people,” he adds. Sharing his thoughts on new industry developments he believes will emerge as the iGaming sector continues to evolve and mature, Mr Perigo says “it will be interesting to see how companies solve the remote/hybrid/in-office dilemma. iGaming is a social industry, and the office is a crucial part of company culture. Can companies keep their culture in the long-term through remote working systems? What is best for productivity and teamwork? We expect new trends to evolve, but it will still be important to get the fundamentals right – pay competitive salaries, create opportunities for career progression, and build the right culture.” Editorial Note: The comments made in this article by the recruitment specialists were given prior to the FATF decision to greylist Malta.
SUMMER 2021 IN DEPTH
Malta’s iGaming industry I N 202 1
As Malta emerges from the pandemic, Rebecca Anastasi reviews the developments within the iGaming sector over the past six months, looking ahead to the trends and possibilities which lie ahead for the rest of the year.
SUMMER 2021 IN DEPTH
NOTWITHSTANDING MONEYVAL’S POSITIVE ASSESSMENT THAT MALTA HAD MADE “SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS” IN BOLSTERING ITS PREVENTION OF FINANCIAL CRIME, THE FATF OPTED TO GREYLIST THE COUNTRY.
alta’s iGaming sector has been an integral part of the island’s financial prosperity for almost two decades, with the contribution of the sector to the country’s Gross Value Added (GVA), including its indirect effects, standing at 10.6 per cent as of the end of June 2020, according to the Malta Gaming Authority’s (MGA) interim report for 2020. Over the same period, 8,009 people were employed – 90 per cent of which in the online sector – across 318 licensed companies. However, how has the sector negotiated the challenges of the pandemic as we’ve come into 2021, and how does it remain on track to prioritise Malta’s reputation as a sound, and safe jurisdiction over these 12 months?
MGA APPOINTS A NEW CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
On 26 January, the MGA, the island’s iGaming industry regulator, announced the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer, Dr Carl Brincat – a lawyer with six years’ experience at the Authority. His appointment followed the controversial resignation of the previous CEO, which kickstarted a highly competitive selection process, launched with a public call for applications on 17 December last year, with Dr Brincat’s appointment signalling a renewed emphasis towards bolstering Malta’s reputation, as a clean, transparent jurisdiction, in the iGaming sector. Indeed, Dr Brincat boasts experience in regulatory issues: following his graduation from the University of Malta, and three years of criminal law training, Dr Brincat joined the MGA as Legal Advisor in 2014, working his way up to the role of Chief Legal and Enforcement Officer, a position he held from 2019 until this year, and which cemented his participation in the formulation of the Authority’s strategic direction and its regulatory Committees. >
SUMMER 2021 IN DEPTH
IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2020, THE MGA ISSUED 40 NEW LICENCES FOR OPERATORS. MONEYVAL ASSESSMENT PROMPTS OVERHAUL OF MALTA’S ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING REGIME
These aims came under increased scrutiny in March, on the publication of a contentious article on Forbes’ high-profile online portal, written by its contributor on sport, politics and business, Will Nicoll. In the piece, he called the island’s reputation into question, asserting that “scandals have been mounting [in the jurisdiction] since 2017”, and adding that “the extent to which Malta’s once-attractive remote gaming licence will now appeal to legitimate multinational gambling companies is – for now – unknown.”
Moreover, Dr Brincat sits on the board of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) – Malta’s primary body tasked with fighting money laundering and the financing of terrorism. He is also a member of the Chamber of Advocates (Malta), the International Masters of Gaming law (IMGL), and the International Association of Gambling Regulators (IAGR), as well as having been a speaker in local and international conferences on gaming and international regulatory issues. On his appointment, in January, Dr Brincat underscored the direction the Authority will be taking over the next few years, saying that, while he was “proud of the work that has been done by the Authority so far in raising regulatory standards”, he was “committed to ensuring that we continue along this path.” Indeed, in his view, it remains essential – now, and for the foreseeable future – for the Authority to “cultivate stronger partnerships with other regulators and stakeholders, and the industry itself, to achieve a regulatory environment that accomplishes the MGA’s objectives as set out in the law in the most effective, transparent, and proportionate manner.”
In 2019, Malta had, in fact, failed to pass a first assessment by Moneyval – the monitoring body of the Council of Europe, which ensures compliance with international law in the areas of money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Then, the Government was given a year, later extended, to resolve a spate of issues, with the country risking being put on its greylist. Considerable effort was – and continues to be – expended by all stakeholders in the field to solidify Malta as a trustworthy place of business, particularly in the iGaming sector, which, as of the first half of 2020, generated a total GVA of €449 million. Indeed, just in the first six months of 2021, compliance, anti-money laundering regulation and investigative procedures, in cases of suspected abuses, have continued to be strengthened, also in response to international pressure and the feedback given by Moneyval. As we were closing this edition of iGaming Capital, however, the news emerged that, notwithstanding Moneyval’s recent overall positive review on Malta, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) decided to greylist the country. We sincerely hope that the Government and the relevant national authorities will do their absolute utmost to accelerate the reforms which started in 2020, whilst taking all major decisions that are necessary to ensure that Malta will be out of the greylist within the shortest timeframe possible, to minimise the damage on the country’s reputation and the economy, and to safeguard the future of the iGaming industry in Malta. >
More recently, Dr Brincat reiterated this stance, calling the gaming industry “resilient” – highlighting its ability to adapt to changing tides – while also emphasising the Authority’s efforts to ease bureaucratic procedures, and solidify Malta’s reputation internationally.
SUMMER 2021 IN DEPTH
MGA AND FIAU ENHANCE COLLABORATION TO BOOST TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
These initiatives were in line with a sustained level of collaboration between regulatory and enforcement agencies on the island, more generally. In 2020, the MGA and the FIAU had signed an updated version of their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish better co-operative instruments for the supervision of AML/CFT in the iGaming sector. Moreover, the Authority had also organised a webinar training session for the industry focusing on common AML/CFT shortcomings; the emerging money laundering and terrorism financing (ML/TF) threats; and typologies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Digital ID methods.
In January of this year, the MGA’s new reporting regulations, applicable to B2C sports betting operators, came into effect. The new obligations require instances of suspicious bets to be reported to the Authority through a new online platform – the Suspicious Betting Reporting Mechanism (SBRM). Through the mechanism’s establishment, the MGA renewed its commitment to fair play in sports betting – a goal the Authority had also prioritised through the launch of the Sports Betting Integrity department, founded on 29 August 2019. Along the same lines, in April, the MGA, together with the FIAU and the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), published a review of Business Risk Assessments (BRAs) submitted by subject persons as part of Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) compliance tests carried out by the three entities during the period 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. The documents, entitled the Business Risk Assessment, provided an overview of the key findings on these BRAs and offered the opportunity for the MGA to urge all gaming licensees to ensure they possessed adequate procedures, covering all legal obligations. Almost a month later, in May, the FIAU also published an Enforcement Factsheet containing findings and conclusions from an analysis of enforcement actions taken by the Unit in 2019 and 2020 – which highlighted the intense work being conducted in this regard. Indeed, the Factsheet revealed the most common breaches across both financial and non-financial sectors, which included inadequate Customer Risk Assessments – at 11.37 per cent of all infringements – as well as in the area of Customer Due Diligence (CDD) with infringements on the gathering of information on the purpose of the business relationship. These latter stood at 9 per cent of the total.
AUTHORITIES STRENGTHEN EFFORTS TO COMBAT FINANCIAL CRIME Maintaining this momentum, in the first six months of 2021, there was also an increased level of enforcement with regards to operators. Indeed, through its online portal, the MGA clarified its position with regard to certain suspect players – highlighting the lack of proper licences in some cases – even announcing the cancellation of licences belonging to stakeholders who failed to comply with their legal obligations. This action was in line with the MGA’s support of the work of the police in weeding out, and punishing, errant entities or individuals. In the arena of Virtual Financial Assets (VFAs), the Authority also recently published amendments to the Sandbox Regulatory Framework, which had been initially launched in 2019 to offer MGA licensed operators the opportunity to use VFAs, through a risk-based approach. The new changes – which were announced in March – included an extension of the sandbox framework to 31 December 2022. Moreover, the documentation and criteria required to participate were updated, with clarifications also issued on additional safeguards which may be imposed by the Authority to grant approval for participation in the framework.
DESPITE THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HITTING SOCIETIES AND ECONOMIES HARD, THE IGAMING SECTOR IN MALTA CONTINUED TO GROW AND FLOURISH. 026
Efforts made paved the way for a positive assessment by Moneyval, which recently stated that Malta had made “significant progress” in bolstering its prevention of financial crime. And, while the Council of Europe has now deemed the country compliant, the FATF still decided to place it on the greylist, meaning that Malta will have no choice but to rigorously follow the advice and recommendations that will soon be issued by the FATF, and to implement the necessary changes in order to assure the global watchdog (and the entire world) that Malta’s intentions are good, and that the country has embarked on long-term reforms to protect the interests of the Maltese jurisdiction, with the ultimate aim of ensuring that the FATF will remove the island from its greylist at the first opportune time. >
SUMMER 2021 IN DEPTH
IGAMING SECTOR IN MALTA CONTINUES TO FLOURISH AS NEW LICENCES ISSUED The past 18 months have not been easy on most industries, globally. However, despite the COVID-19 pandemic hitting societies and economies hard, the iGaming sector in Malta continued to grow and flourish. Indeed, in the first half of 2020, the MGA issued 40 new licences for operators – some of which had started the application process the previous year. By the end June 2020, there were 318 licenced companies – both online and landbased entities – as well as 335 approvals to offer various types of games under the B2C licence, according to the MGA’s interim report.
IGAMING COMPANIES EMBRACE FURTHER FLEXIBILITY WITH NEW WORK MODELS The sustained level of employment may also be attributed to the flexibility shown by the sector as offices were forced to close. Indeed, the shift towards remote working for most operators in the sector – likely to remain in force through most of this year – ensured companies could continue functioning at optimum levels, despite the wider uncertainty.
This sustained growth – a trend consistent with the industries’ performance over the past few years – has increased pressure on recruiters and human resource departments in the business. A virtual careers fair, organised by SiGMA at the end of 2020, highlighted this need for key staff to fill positions which were fast opening up. Moreover, in an interview conducted in April of this year, and published by Gambling Insider, Julian Perigo, Managing Director at iGaming recruitment company, Boston Link, stated that, while the number of Malta-based jobs during 2020’s lockdown seemed to plummet, this decrease has now been reversed with the number of opportunities reaching above preCOVID levels.
MALTA’S SUCCESSFUL VACCINATION DRIVE BOOSTS INDUSTRY OPTIMISM This elevated sense of optimism has been partly driven by Malta’s successful handling of the pandemic. For while the island entered a soft lockdown from May to June 2020, and, later, from February to May 2021, the vaccination drive has spearheaded a degree of normality. Indeed, the health authorities have announced that Malta’s entire adult population will be immunised by as early as the end of July 2021 – having reached herd immunity by end of May 2021 – putting the island on the forefront of progress in the area. The iGaming sector has also focused attention on ensuring high levels of immunisation: the GamingMalta Foundation supported by the MGA launched a COVID-19 vaccination initiative, in which employees in the industry benefit from a coordinated vaccine booking schedule, operating in parallel with the state-wide programme, with some firms also offering onsite vaccinations.
It also allowed stakeholders to deal with the increase in customer traffic – as consumers shifted to online activities as other areas of the economy were seriously curtailed – and pushed human resource departments to think of innovative solutions to keeping the team unified and motivated. Despite this, many are looking forward to getting back to some degree of normality, with networking events – such as the Casino Beats Summit being held at the Intercontinental Malta, from 13 to 15 July, focusing on the theme of iGaming Development, Innovation and Strategy – already being lined up for the second half of the year.
THE INDUSTRY TRENDS TO WATCH But what will the iGaming sector look like postCOVID, as regulation, and enforcement, continue to be tightened? Some of the major trends which have been identified internationally include the continued growth of affiliate marketing, as well as the use of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence in the operations of stakeholders in the sector. Mobile gaming is also set to continue garnering more popularity, while Virtual Reality games are poised to change the market in surprising ways. For, as the world emerges from its pandemic slumber, armed with more powerful digital tools and increased accessibility to the online world, more immersive experiences will be in demand: statistics from Juniper Research – analysts specialising in digital technology market research and trends – predict an increase in VR gambling wagers by 800 per cent by 2024. Whether this becomes a reality remains to be seen. However, in the meantime, the iGaming sector promises to remain a vital part of the Maltese economy, and society for the next years to come.
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
same rope sustainable PU L L I N G T H E
TOWARD S A
A N D COMPL I AN T G A M I NG I NDU ST RY
Newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Malta Gaming Authority, Carl Brincat, talks to Sarah Micallef about his plans for the regulator moving forward, the resilience of the industry in the wake of COVID-19, and its bright future ahead.
Photos by Albert Camilleri
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
aving been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) last January, following a competitive process that started with a call for applications in December 2020, Carl Brincat reveals that his decision to apply for the position was “driven by [my] desire to continue to contribute to the growth and improvement of the organisation, and the sustainable growth of the industry in Malta.” A lawyer by profession, he previously held the role of Chief Legal and Enforcement Officer within the MGA, and says that while “at heart I remain a lawyer first and foremost”, he felt that the manner in which he could best contribute to the Authority was through the CEO position.
“I WANT TO CONTINUE BUILDING ON THE GOOD WORK THAT HAS BEEN DONE IN ENGENDERING A COMPLIANCE CULTURE WITHIN THE INDUSTRY, WHILST IMPROVING ON THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS IS REQUIRED AND OVERSEEN.”
Looking back on his time within the MGA’s legal team, he explains that it was this positive experience that nurtured within him a love for both industry and the Authority. “I joined the MGA after training in the fields of criminal law and human rights law, so it was quite a stark difference at first. However, I had the good fortune of having fantastic teammates and mentors, that nurtured both my professional and personal growth,” he shares. Upon his appointment as CEO, Dr Brincat admits to feeling “proud, but also humbled at having been entrusted with such a responsibility during times which are difficult for the industry and country alike.” “I want to continue building on the good work that has been done in engendering a compliance culture within the industry, whilst improving on the manner in which this is required and overseen,” he reveals, explaining his ambitions for the role moving forward. “We have built regulatory requirements on top of each other very quickly, and this has led to a situation where there is a significant level of duplication which must be done away with,” the CEO elaborates, explaining that streamlining will not only alleviate some of the
unnecessary work that is required of industry players, but will also free up MGA resources to further focus on regulatory outcomes, such as AntiMoney Laundering and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT), and the protection of players. “Achieving our regulatory objectives in the most efficient and effective manner is the topmost priority,” he says. Apart from this, the CEO has his sights set on continuing to strengthen the MGA’s internal governance structures, and work on its transparency towards the industry. “Outreach is essential to provide clarity as to what is expected of licensees and applicants, and naturally, as the regulator of such a dynamic industry, we must keep working to digitalise as many of our processes as possible,” Dr Brincat maintains. >
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
Earlier this year, the MGA’s interim performance report for the gaming industry for the period of January to June 2020 stated that the Authority issued fines to various companies for a collective value of €2.43 million. Moreover, a number of subsequent fines and licence suspensions have also been reported in recent months, leading to reports that the MGA is coming down hard on ‘bad apples’ in the industry. Reacting to this, Dr Brincat says, “reputation is one of our primary regulatory objectives, but effective and proportionate enforcement is not only important for the sake of upholding the reputation of the MGA as a regulator, but also of Malta as a jurisdiction.”
Affirming that this is also paramount for the sake of fairness towards compliant operators, Dr Brincat maintains that the MGA’s priority when it comes to ensuring compliance is to do so through education and transparency, in accordance with what is expected of licensees, first and foremost.
With the COVID-19 pandemic driving people across the globe to spend more time at home, many turned to gaming for entertainment, escape and community. This led to unprecedented growth within certain sectors of the industry. The MGA CEO believes that the gaming industry’s continued growth is primarily testament to its strength in innovation. “The industry managed to weather the storm by innovating and changing extremely quickly in order to cater for new realities, and this highlights its resilience,” he says, describing it as a pillar of the local economy. Explaining how the work of the Responsible Gaming Foundation – which falls under the MGA – comes into play in relation to the increase in business for companies, the CEO shares that the Authority took a number of steps during the onset of the pandemic in order to address the potential increase in problem gambling. These include refocusing more resources to providing guidance and ensuring oversight over commercial communications.
In fact, he says, “detailed warnings are substantially more common than significant fines. However, the MGA and the vast majority of our licensees are pulling the same rope towards ensuring a sustainable and compliant industry in Malta, and meting out enforcement measures against the few that are continually non-compliant, or who undermine important regulatory objectives, is a prerequisite for achieving this common goal.”
“In light of the increase in the offer of betting markets on Esports during times in which traditional sports were not available, the Authority also issued guidance on integrity risks of certain events,” he continues, adding that the Responsible Gaming Foundation also stepped up its efforts and ensured that it was available to anyone who has a problem, or feels at risk of developing one.
“ACHIEVING OUR REGULATORY OBJECTIVES IN THE MOST EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE MANNER IS THE TOPMOST PRIORITY.”
Despite these efforts, the CEO feels it is still early to interpret the information available so as to concretely assess whether there has been an increase in problem gambling with the increase in business. “Sustainable business growth is through the acquisition of casual customers that spend moderate amounts over a prolonged period of time, and our licensees endeavour to seek such customers and to provide their services in a manner which encourages responsible play,” Dr Brincat explains, acknowledging that it is an area which requires constant improvement. “The MGA is in fact working on some tweaks to player protection legislation which were deemed necessary further to an analysis of the effectiveness of our requirements by professionals in the field of gambling addiction,” he adds. >
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
“EFFECTIVE AND PROPORTIONATE ENFORCEMENT IS NOT ONLY IMPORTANT FOR THE SAKE OF UPHOLDING THE REPUTATION OF THE MGA AS A REGULATOR, BUT ALSO OF MALTA AS A JURISDICTION.” >
On the subject of COVID-19, I refer to the GamingMalta Foundation’s recently launched vaccination initiative for the gaming sector, with the help of the Malta Gaming Authority. Elaborating on the initiative, the CEO affirms, “in Malta, we have to be thankful that Government and the health authorities have worked tirelessly on the national vaccination programme and have ensured that it progresses extremely quickly. In order to facilitate matters further for the industry, in parallel with initiatives taken by the health authorities to expedite vaccination, a coordinated vaccine booking schedule was launched, to work in parallel with the state-wide programme.”
Explaining that several companies may also benefit from on-site vaccinations, again in the spirit of facilitating the practicalities of the process as much as possible, he notes, “this is simply a small sign of the importance that Malta gives to this industry.” And despite the difficulties that the industry has had to contend with over the last year, looking ahead at 2021, the CEO reveals that this year has so far seen more new operators establish themselves in Malta and apply for a licence than 2020, noting that it is looking to be a year of moderate growth in this respect. Describing it as “a positive sign of recovery and optimism despite the uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he looks favourably at the months ahead.
SUMMER 2021 TRENDING
INT ROD U C I N G
iGaming Capital.mt: A NEW VO I C E FO R T HE I N D U ST RY iGamingCapital.mt – a major iGaming online news platform for the industry launched by Content House Group – is now live. Sarah Micallef talks to Jesmond Bonello, Managing Director at Content House, to find out what we can expect from the professional local platform that focuses exclusively on the sector.
s Malta’s first portal that is fully dedicated to people in gaming and the iGaming industry, iGamingCapital.mt is the latest in a successful line of media brands launched by Content House Group, Malta’s leading media news organisation. “The decision to invest in the portal forms part of the company’s strategy to continue investing in online media,” explains Managing Director Jesmond Bonello, noting that iGamingCapital. mt will be the seventh online portal run by the company – a record number for Malta.
Speaking of the choice of focus, Mr Bonello describes the local iGaming industry as “massive”, and one that has proven its resilience, both in the face of the global financial crisis as well as in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Looking at the impacts of COVID-19, Mr Bonello comments that while no sector was immune to the devastating reality of the pandemic, the iGaming industry has coped very well in comparison to other sectors, with the primary challenge being recruitment. “The challenges that companies within the industry are >
SUMMER 2021 TRENDING
“THE MAGAZINE WAS AN INSTANT HIT, AND IT GREW IMMEDIATELY INTO A FAMILIAR NAME WITHIN iGAMING CIRCLES.”
SUMMER 2021 TRENDING
facing are centred on the fact that they want to recruit more people, but the number of expats living in Malta right now is not what it used to be, so they are hoping that with the situation improving in Europe and Malta opening up to travel, their catchment area can increase significantly,” he states.
he adds, “overall, it seems that although when the pandemic hit, the industry was impacted by all that was happening, companies were quick to adjust their focus and product lines, and as a result, they seem to be doing better,” he says. Now, the company believes that the time is right to launch a sister brand to the successful iGaming Capital Magazine, by investing in a modern online portal that can continue strengthening the communication between the various players in the industry.
On a positive note, Mr Bonello affirms that as a result of the pandemic, the inflated rental market in Malta has corrected itself, meaning that iGaming industry employees can get more value for money, which in turn increases employee happiness and well-being. Moreover,
“Some years back, we launched iGaming Capital Magazine, and what prompted us to invest in it was the fact that we were receiving constant feedback from the industry – primarily from iGaming companies and affiliate companies – that there is a vacuum in the market for a publication that focuses specifically on the industry,” Mr Bonello recalls, and as it turns out, they were right. “The magazine was an instant hit, and it grew immediately into a familiar name within iGaming circles,” he says. Speaking of the relationship between the magazine and the newly launched portal, the Managing Director maintains that, “like all our brands, the two siblings will live in harmony, enhancing cross-promotion between the brands.” The addition of the portal, he adds, will also strengthen the voice of the media, since certain content can now be used in a hybrid way on both print and online. “It has also strengthened our commercial offering by enabling clients to access packages that enjoy visibility on both print and online.”
‘The actions of the few have impacted the second largest industry in Malta’ – iGen founder and chairman
Ultimately, the goal behind iGamingCapital.mt is to be of benefit to the local industry, as well as other sectors and industries that work in tandem with people in iGaming. “The scope is to give a voice to the local >
BY SOLOMON CEFAI 14 MAY 2021
SUMMER 2021 TRENDING
industry and to have a platform that consistently provides daily content on what is happening in the dynamic world of iGaming. The fact that our organisation is backed by a large team of journalists and writers makes it easier for us to reach our goals in a sustainable way, on a longterm basis,” the Managing Director says.
Revealing what we can expect to see on a daily basis on iGamingCapital.mt, Mr Bonello says that the team reports on what’s happening both globally and in Malta in the iGaming industry. “We will also cover stories that are indirectly linked with iGaming, so for instance if the rental prices of property in Malta fall drastically, we will cover it as it has the potential to have a direct impact on thousands of employees working in this sector,” he explains, adding that, as is the case with all other niche portals operated by Content House Group, the focus is on the everyday happenings in the sector, zooming in on stories that stand out.
“EVERYONE WHO IS INVOLVED IN THE INDUSTRY HAS A VOICE THROUGH OUR PORTAL.” Moreover, the new portal also aims to fulfil a networking function, seeking to create synergies between industries working in the sector, including iGaming companies, affiliate marketing companies, recruitment companies, legal firms, accountancy and auditing professionals, as well as corporate and fiduciary companies, and those working in software and ICT technologies. “Everyone who is involved in the industry has a voice through our portal,” Mr Bonello says.
The team behind the portal also plans for iGamingCapital. mt to lobby authorities through its editorial stance and content to safeguard the interest of the iGaming industry in Malta and to ensure that the local industry is made up of credible and legitimate industry players. “We want a clean industry that grows organically, a level playing field in the industry, a serious and clean regulator, and an environment conducive for the sector to continue growing in Malta; and we will be pushing hard on these fronts,” the Managing Director concludes.
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
L EADING T H E WAY ON T HE
As companies began to plan the return of their workforce to the office, Betsson Group announced its new pilot model, termed the Hybrid WFH model. Martina Said catches up with Chief HR Officer, Lena Nordin, to understand the events that led up to this change in their work practices and what it means for the future well-being of Betsson’s employees.
he past year has seen companies take drastic measures to safeguard their business and workforce in equal measure, which spearheaded a global reevaluation of work practices, causing many to rethink their models in favour of a more flexible and fluid approach. Betsson Group has been at the forefront of this – and recently announced its new Hybrid Work From Home (WFH) model that has set a new standard in the industry, paving the way for others to follow suit. Lena Nordin, Chief HR Officer at Betsson Group says the company has always stressed the importance of and given a lot of attention to employee experience, continuously addressing the various parts within it, including benefits, career development, employee activities and, “not least, supporting managers so that they are fully equipped to support the people reporting to them. It’s a whole cycle and we invest in each part of it,” says Mrs Nordin. “This of course ties in with our strong company culture and our company values – One Betsson, Passion and Fair Play.”
Speaking of the company’s migration to a remote set-up at the outbreak of COVID-19 last year, Mrs Nordin asserts that most employees have always had the possibility to work from home a day here and there when needed, and the company began monitoring the situation closely from the start, also asking some of its teams to work remotely in order to test the resilience of its systems. “Everything worked well and therefore, when the pandemic started spreading in Europe, we shifted – almost overnight – to everybody working from home. Within the HR team, we discussed and came up with ideas to cater for how people would feel and react, how we could keep up productivity and deliver on our business goals, and how to keep the Betsson spirit up,” she asserts. More than just a temporary fix that suits the current reality, Mrs Nordin says that Betsson sees remote working as an important part of the employee experience, and it is something that current employees appreciate, and >
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
“WE ACTED IMMEDIATELY AND CONTINUOUSLY, AND WE STAYED TRUE TO OUR CULTURE AND VALUES.”
Photo by Aleksey Leonov
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
“WE FEEL THAT WITH THIS MODEL, WE GET THE BEST OF TWO WORLDS.” >
candidates frequently ask about in interviews. “Thanks to our strong company culture, which revolves around helping each other and taking pride in what we do, we have managed to make the transition from working at the office to working from home much smoother.”
Mrs Nordin explains that the company acknowledged the exceptional circumstances and challenges that employees were facing beyond the transition to working from home. “I believe it’s important to be conscious of this whenever we talk about working from home. Some of the effects we saw were influenced by factors other than working remotely – such as lockdowns, not being able to see family and friends, and general feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and loss,” she says.
Indeed, from the start, the company focused on supporting its employees in this new and unprecedented scenario and, equally important, upholding the company culture. “We moved employee activities that previously took place on site to online, making most of them global at the same time,” says Mrs Nordin. “This meant that every week, there was an occasion for employees to gather around – poker tournaments, quizzes, puzzles, photo competitions, and much more to help keep spirits high.”
“We even had our own global song contest where all Betssonites could vote for their favourite Betsson singer. Since we entered many new markets during this period, we continued to recruit and onboard new members, therefore employee activities were also important to introduce new employees to our culture at Betsson,” the Chief HR Officer explains. The company also developed e-learnings on how to work and lead remotely, shared messages from the CEO on how the company was doing, and held digital ‘All Hands Meetings’ where employees could ask questions. Through their own internal surveys assessing how employees felt about the situation, it was found that 96 per cent of Betssonites found working from home easy or relatively easy. “These are just a few things that we did to facilitate the transition and keep spirits – as well as the quality of work – high. What I think was important was that we acted immediately and continuously, and that we stayed true to our culture and values.”
“With that in mind, what we at Betsson noted was that productivity – and quality of work – did not suffer from the shift to remote work and that many employees found it beneficial to be able to skip the commute and work from home in a focused and concentrated manner. But we also saw that there was a slight drop in team spirit and that some found it more difficult to communicate with colleagues while working from home.” All these factors were weighed and considered ahead of the company’s decision to introduce its new model, termed the Hybrid WFH model. Mrs Nordin explains that the company listened to its employees, looked at what other companies were doing and analysed scientific studies. “We took everything into account and came up with our hybrid model. It is comprised of two days working from the office and three days working from home if they wish. To support this, Betsson will also be offering a work from home allowance to aid our Betssonites in having the best possible set-up for their home office. Betssonites also have the possibility to work 10 days from locations other than their place of employment within the EU.” >
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
She adds that the Hybrid WFH model is a pilot, which will be evaluated and tweaked if needed, and implemented office by office “when it is safe to do so in our different locations across the world. Most employees are eligible for the Hybrid Model, while some still need to be present in the office full-time.” “We feel that with this model, we get the best of two worlds and we facilitate for both ad hoc and planned face-to-face meetings, for example one-to-ones with managers,” asserts Mrs Nordin. “At the same time, those who so wish and find it beneficial have the opportunity to work from home three days per week, with the increased flexibility that such an arrangement allows.” Sharing the company’s decision to opt for a hybrid model, the Chief HR Officer says they felt that meeting face-toface is important for collaboration and cooperation, and some tasks, such as brainstorming sessions, are most efficient if everybody is in the same place. “We also believe
that innovation requires people to meet in person to discuss and challenge different ideas.” Additionally, Mrs Nordin says that having an office to work from provides an added sense of belonging among employees, not to mention that “we like our offices, and the special Betsson spirit that can be felt there. We recently refurbished parts of the Ta’ Xbiex office and got some additional office space too, so we plan to continue to have enough room for all employees going forward.”
“I BELIEVE THAT REMOTE WORK IS HERE TO STAY. AND SO IS THE OFFICE.” The launch of Betsson’s Hybrid WFH model is just the beginning of the company’s journey in this space, and, as Mrs Nordin puts it, it’s a constant work in progress that requires frequent analysis from the team.
Photo by Aleksey Leonov
“With this new way of working, it is important that we continue to support both employees and managers and, in line with this, we have recently launched the new Leading Remotely Training for all people managers at Betsson. This training will give all our leaders a set of common tools for how to lead and coach employees when working remotely,” she concludes. “I believe that remote work is here to stay. And so is the office. What will matter is how we strike the balance between them so that we can take advantage of their respective benefits. And that we create a set-up that allows employees to succeed in both.”
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
A global approach
Since its establishment in 2018, financial services platform, Globiance, has aimed to offer virtual currency services, facilitating banking to global disruptors and high-risk industries, while also offering solutions for cryptocurrencies. Here, its Chief Executive Officer, Oliver Marco La Rosa, discusses the company’s motivations and its plans for the future.
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
ith the financial services landscape shifting fast, Globiance, a banking platform catering to clients across the globe, was set up in 2018, with its eye firmly fixed on what the future may hold. Indeed, its founders were “motivated by the desire to forge a bridge between the traditional financial industry and the extremely promising digital currencies,” such as cryptocurrencies, its Chief Executive Officer, Oliver Marco La Rosa, explains.
La Rosa (Mudreac), the company’s Chief People Officer, and Mr La Rosa’s life partner with a background in psychology, has worked in many customer-facing roles in the past. “She now plays a crucial part in vetting new suppliers and business partners,” the CEO says, while the platform itself is handled by two other co-founders, Alexander Pfau and Sascha La Rosa, who possess more of a technical background. “Together we make a fantastic team and, hence, despite facing several setbacks initially, we continued to work hard and rely on each other and successfully launched our first platform in May 2019,” he smiles.
With an acute understanding of the shifting sands, the company was unafraid to venture into servicing sectors usually considered riskier and provide virtual currency offerings. “Currently, we are witnessing a major shift in people’s priorities when it comes to taking charge of their financial freedom. Since time immemorial, traditional systems have failed to provide substantial returns and this has led to the digital revolution which has further given rise to elegant decentralised solutions,” he explains, saying that these solutions are being harnessed to facilitate digital banking solutions for crypto and other high-risk industries.
Through this main platform, the company made it a mission to “bring value to our clients around the world. We began our journey by simplifying their banking needs by introducing them to top banking providers. As we grew and the demands of our clients reshaped, we realised that it was more optimal for us to divide our services into two parts and better combat the regulatory challenges,” Mr La Rosa continues.
“Our primary business is to exchange crypto and fiat currencies. In order to ease these transfers, we offer our own IBAN ranges (LT, GB, FR, ES) to clients. This is especially useful in high-risk industries. We also offer multicurrency wallet accounts via our Singapore EMI. Once our clients pass the seamless KYC/ KYB procedure, they get to enjoy limitless transactions. We also have corporate cards connected to the accounts which have up to a €500,000 monthly limit,” Mr La Rosa explains.
Indeed, a short while after the establishment of the company, GlobiancePay was launched – as an offshoot of the main portal – offering financial services for the Globiance Exchange platforms and external clients. “The success of GlobiancePay is largely defined due to its assistance in high-risk industries,” Mr La Rosa says. “The other big challenge we took on are clients who reside in certain regions that lack fine banking solutions. Crypto is the first choice to enable daily transactions and allows financial freedom through access to an ecosystem of Decentralized Finance (DeFi)”, Mr La Rosa says, adding that this mechanism allows individuals to benefit from the smart contracts that are running in the automated systems. “A digital revolution of this kind unfolds a sense of surreal financial freedom to a wider audience and even opens up pathways to neglected 1.7 billion people – as per 2017 Global Findex – who don’t even own a bank account.” >
He sees the company as “working relentlessly to bring positive change in the world,” although he stresses that the company has faced a bit of an uphill battle in asserting its space. Despite this, he says, “we take pride in the fact that we have a great team,” which has aided the firm in tackling the difficulties it encountered. He cites the experience of the firm’s founders – Mr La Rosa himself possesses 13 years’ experience in the banking sector, while Irina
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
In stressing the importance of this ecosystem, Mr La Rosa explains that in early 2020 “DeFi protocols were launched on the Ethereum main net. Since then, exponential growth can be observed in the Total Value Locked (TVL) in DeFi smart contracts.” Moreover, “as per a recent article by Coindesk, DeFi is not a $100 billion sector. Yet, we believe that we are at a fairly early stage as there is still a market of about $640 trillion to $1 quadrillion of traditional derivatives and financial marketing waiting to be disrupted.”
Dealing in new markets has its difficulties, he continues. “The biggest challenge that our industry faces is regulation. We are delighted to be regulated in Europe and Singapore, and we are seeking a licence in other important markets such as Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and Korea,” he says. In terms of more recent advances for the firm, Mr La Rosa explains how it has taken over a Singapore EMI “with the goal of providing more services directly
“CURRENTLY, WE ARE WITNESSING A MAJOR SHIFT IN PEOPLE’S PRIORITIES WHEN IT COMES TO TAKING CHARGE OF THEIR FINANCIAL FREEDOM.” 050
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
“OUR EXCLUSIVE SERVICES INCLUDE TAKING THE TIME TO PERSONALLY HANDLE EACH CLIENT AND OFFERING THEM CUSTOM SOLUTIONS.”
to the Asian markets. Our decision to set a headquarter in Singapore was strongly due to the fact that the Singapore Dollar is an extremely valuable currency for Asia’s trade finance. So, Globiance is now working on its own Singapore Dollar based stable coin in a partnership with XinFin. We are optimistic to propel digitisation forward while smoothing trading with our SGDX stable coin,” he explains, adding that the firm believes that “stable coins bring the level of credibility that is required for mass adoption. Since many users don’t feel absolute certainty towards cryptocurrency, stable coins assure that their money will have the same value later as well.” These products have been well received by the firm’s clients, the majority of whom are businesses, he says. “We have a great relationship with them as some of them have been with us since the beginning. Our exclusive services include taking the time to personally handle each client and offering them custom solutions. We also provide services to retail clients.” Moreover, and in response to these clients’ needs, the company introduced a Crypto Processing Gateway in April. “It is a high demand product as it essentially replaces credit card payments. As you might be aware, there are high risks involved in offering credit card payments such as card fraud, chargebacks, and rolling reserve in which the card processor holds a
part of your money back for a certain period of time.” And, “Globiance has successfully integrated crypto processing as a checkout option. So now, clients can pay with crypto instead of their credit cards. This amazing feature is useful for all businesses and mainly effective for high-risk industries. By design, our product can be utilised at lower fees, no risk, no rolling reserve, and offers definite transactions. It is available in a white-label version for the merchants and can be seamlessly integrated into their platforms,” the CEO explains. “These integrations are deployed in a short span of time and are offered without any set-up costs. Our solutions of crypto payments are highly beneficial for high-risk merchants today. The volatility of crypto assets is nullified as those are automatically converted into fiat currencies. This solution is also available for banking and payment service providers.” Since the company deals in highrisk industries, Mr La Rosa is at pains to emphasise the procedures it goes through to vet its clientele. “We understand the sensitivity that surrounds cryptocurrencies and how regulation is always in question. That’s why our KYC/AML procedure operates at the level of highest security, leaving no grey area when more and more regulations will be tightened.” >
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
Furthermore, to ensure the safety of all stakeholders, “users have to go through KYC/KYB and AML checks, powered by our partner, ShuftiPro, before they are allowed to trade. We conduct the KYC procedure with ultimate accuracy and similar to the process customers usually go through while remotely opening bank accounts. We also integrated the coin analysis services of Ospree, ensuring the safe origin of coins traded on our platforms. Our own compliance department ensures the safety of all business partners and clients dealing on our platforms.” Shifting to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on the business, Mr La Rosa says the company has “been fortunate”, with the crisis spurring a rebalancing of work and family commitments. This was also precipitated by the happy news that Mr and Mrs La Rosa have welcomed a beautiful baby boy into their family. Indeed, “the recent adoption of remote working has given us a better chance at balancing our work-life, and another key advantage of having a remote team is that we get to work with brilliant people around the world. Our current team members are residents of Germany, Malta, the UK, Singapore, Turkey, India, Brazil, Australia and Argentina. This framework aligns perfectly with our mission – providing financial freedom to people around the world – whether they are our clients or team members.” A change has also been seen in the type of clients being accrued by the company due to the pandemic. “Due to the COVID-19 crisis, more individuals and institutions have realised the importance of digital banking. Hence, there’s also increased adoption of digital currencies as people have more time to learn about how crypto works and how they can invest in it. We can see a rise in trade of not only Bitcoin but other altcoins as well. To be able to see this financial revolution in our lifetime and be a crucial part of it has given us immense satisfaction. We are excited about what is next to come,” the CEO says. Looking ahead, the company is working on opening its very own bank – GlobianceBANK. “We are very excited to share that in Q3 this year, GlobianceBANK will go live. As we set up our own bank, our clients will have access to banking solutions with added possibilities of storing their funds across multiple accounts and jurisdictions to ensure safety and accessibility at any given time. Besides enabling us to provide more and cost-efficient banking solutions demanded by our high-risk clients, Globiance will also allow us to trade securities as we add new features to our platform,” he explains. The bank’s goal, he continues, “is to facilitate access to all underlying banks via a combined interface, listing IBANs of multiple banks together with the client’s crypto and fiat assets for a complete overview of one’s finances with the ability to initiate crypto and fiat payments in all directions.”
However, the company does not “plan to replace our banking partners but we believe in working with several banks in numerous countries and integrating more each month. This will allow our clients to have one platform with all banking services available in one place. In the end, onboarding with an additional bank through Globiance and doing daily business without the need to log in to multiple banking platforms to check balances and execute transactions,” Mr La Rosa asserts. This, he continues, “will also help us to expand into the gaming and crypto industries, both of which are in dire need of strong and reliable banking services.
SUMMER 2021 INTERVIEW
Along with ConnectPay, we will help every crypto and gaming company, as well as other exchanges, to obtain banking services with ease.”
This approach will ensure that the progress made continues to be consolidated. “Despite the peaks and valleys, Globiance is one of the few platforms that have a global approach and features multiple integrated individual bank accounts and cards for each client,” he stresses, reiterating, that the focus “is on providing the best possible user experience for buying and selling crypto, combined with the ability to instantly withdraw fiat to the integrated accounts, and personal client support that assists more than emails.”
However, despite this territorial reach, the company is keeping its feet on the ground. Indeed, the company believes “that it will be in our best interests to slow down for the rest of the year and consolidate our newly achieved heights by working on improving our platforms and services further and by growing our client base in our new markets.”
“GLOBIANCE IS ONE OF THE FEW PLATFORMS THAT HAVE A GLOBAL APPROACH AND FEATURES MULTIPLE INTEGRATED INDIVIDUAL BANK ACCOUNTS AND CARDS FOR EACH CLIENT.”
SUMMER 2021 DESIGN
SUMMER 2021 DESIGN
At the forefront in creating new office experiences Design Hub Malta offers a full design-and-build fit out package for existing or new offices spaces. Its team prides itself on maximising space, creating innovative design solutions, and crafting ‘one off’ designs for international online businesses. In this article, we invite Design Hub Managing Director and Interior Architect Sean Cassar to answer a few questions about his role in designing and fitting out offices for some of the largest names in online gaming in Malta. >
SUMMER 2021 DESIGN
GIVEN CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCES, CONSIDERATIONS MUST BE MADE WHEN DESIGNING AND FINISHING NEW OFFICES. WHAT ARE A FEW OF THOSE CONSIDERATIONS AND WHAT SHOULD BE KEPT IN MIND WHEN PLANNING A NEW OFFICE AT THIS TIME? The first thing we think about today is general space allocation and the fluid flow of traffic through the entire office. Breakout areas and dining facilities would be more comfortable if there were no bottle-necks or dead ends if and when possible.
Open-plan work spaces also need to be carefully structured. Desk clusters separate the space and can give different teams an identity. In turn they increase user comfort and aid in creating solid barriers between staff.
HOW DO YOUR CUSTOM DESK CLUSTERS ENHANCE OFFICE SPACES?
We design all our desk clusters on a custom basis and supply them to our clients. This enables us to plan all the dimensions dependent on team clusters and positions within the open plan. For increased visibility, the heights of these clusters are carefully calculated depending on the level of vision needed from team to team. The design elements and materials we incorporate increase sound absorption, giving the seated user a more focused work aura.
SUMMER 2021 DESIGN
DO YOU HAVE ANY RECOMMENDATION ABOUT HOW TO FURTHER MAXIMISE AN OFFICE SPACE?
Storage compartments for office use or lockers for staff are usually located in one part of an office. I tend to propose scattering these storage compartments around the spaces, based on their function and who would be assigned to use them. Once we have determined positions of usage, we can fuse their design into the desk cluster privacy structure. In turn this means we have managed to free up space in another area of the office, have enhanced social distancing, and have customised a design that fits into the brand identity of the company.
WHAT FACTORS ARE FUNDAMENTAL FOR A CLOSED OFFICE TO BE COMFORTABLE TO WORK IN?
The most fundamental for both open and closed offices is forced ventilation and fresh air from the health aspect of staff. Acoustics and lighting considerations are vital when it comes to creating a more comfortable work environment. In most cases, we design and build different features within closed offices that introduce the room to a particular design.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER ELEMENTS YOU FEEL OFFICES SHOULD HAVE INCORPORATED INTO THEIR DESIGN TO BOOST STAFF EXPERIENCE AND TO STAND OUT FROM OTHER COMPANIES? Particular features and designs within the space are initially considered around the brand identity, and we then propose a splash of materials. Feature areas are then customised and sculpted to fit the spaces, whether it is a feature on the floor, wall or ceiling – or even all three! Most features we have designed highlight how walls and ceilings are a great playground for combining materials to both act as sound absorbers and add fun design elements, thus enhancing the brand identity and giving the backdrop added architectural elements.
Contact us: www.designhubmalta.com.mt email@example.com
SUMMER 2021 RECRUITMENT
A new era for
recruitment in iGaming
SUMMER 2021 RECRUITMENT
As many iGaming companies experienced a boom in business over the past year, their recruitment efforts have accelerated in tandem, driving their search for top talent in the industry. The team at Boston Link, a recruitment agency specialised in iGaming, financial services, tech and aviation, delves into the latest industry trends with Martina Said.
he start of 2020 proved to be a disruptive year for all, when chaos and confusion reigned across all sectors and industries the world over at the outbreak and spread of COVID-19. And, for specialists Boston Link – recruitment experts in the fields of iGaming, financial services, technology and aviation with offices in Malta, the UK and Isle of Man – the situation was no different. In the Boston Link iGaming Salary Survey, published in 2021
TOM SMELT, DIRECTOR UK, ISLE OF MAN AND CHANNEL ISLANDS Reflecting on the industry’s boom following the initial shock at the outbreak of COVID-19 last year, Boston Link’s UK Director, Tom Smelt, says everyone has turned to a form of entertainment that they could enjoy in solitude because of the pandemic – and iGaming was one of them. “It is one of the biggest and fastest-growing entertainment industries now in the US and across Europe.”
Photo by Alan Carville
“Gaming companies have broken a lot of revenue records in 2020, and due to the circumstances that many found themselves in throughout the year, being isolated and with money saved up from a lack of travelling or social activity, there was a notable uptake in online entertainment, including gambling, which resulted in gaming companies needing to recruit more people.” Tom asserts that the initial reaction to the pandemic was one of general unease and worry in the industry, which resulted in a dip in the jobs market. “However, companies soon realised that they had more players, were making more money, were busier than ever, and therefore needed to hire more people.” The industry has also experienced some major shifts – with sportsbook taking a hit, companies began to place a greater emphasis on their casino products, attracting
and reflecting the previous year, Managing Director Julian Perigo noted a 25 to 30 per cent decrease in the number of jobs available in the sector during the first quarter of 2020. However, by the first quarter of 2021, the number of new job mandates was consistently above pre-COVID levels, reflecting a resilient iGaming jobs market. Here’s what the team at Boston Link has to say about current recruitment trends in the industry.
SUMMER 2021 RECRUITMENT
and retaining first-time players, while keeping dedicated slot players interested in new and existing products. Tom adds that the industry has seen some large acquisitions take place too, such as NetEnt acquiring Red Tiger, and Evolution acquiring NetEnt, as well as an increase in the number of iGaming start-ups.
The increase in business, and thus recruitment, could also be attributed to the emergence of new markets, says Tom. “More countries have opened up to the industry, such as Germany, which has introduced iGaming licencing and regulation, driving the need for specialised roles in the areas of law, finance, compliance and due diligence, among others. The potential here is massive, not to mention the US market, which is also gradually opening up to online gaming, one State at a time,” he asserts, highlighting Caesars Entertainment’s acquisition of William Hill. Sharing his advice to potential recruits interested in making the move to iGaming, Tom says “make sure you’re passionate about the industry – and take it seriously. The competition is tough, and one would do well to get proper training and qualifications,” he explains. “For certain roles in legal, finance, compliance and Anti-Money Laundering (AML), this is a must, while for marketingrelated roles, it’s an investment – you have to be really good to do well.”
HILDA RUDBO, SENIOR IGAMING CONSULTANT
The iGaming sector is widely considered to be a progressive one, leading the way in the fair and indiscriminate recruitment of employees. Indeed, Senior iGaming Consultant, Hilda Rudbo, believes this is the case, both in terms of women’s salaries as well as their recruitment for senior roles, in Malta and across Europe. “Gaming is one of those industries where I’ve never seen a difference in the way men and women are paid, and maybe that’s unusual. In its early days, the gaming industry was a little rough around the edges, but it has really grown and matured, and we see many women appointed to senior positions in gaming companies,” says Hilda. In fact, she adds that the successful recruitment of individuals is generally driven by a candidate’s knowledge, “as there isn’t a very large pool of people with specialised knowledge of the industry, particularly for higher level positions.” Hilda explains, “nowadays, employers are looking for the right requirements, how much you know and how long you’ve been in the industry, rather than gender. Within many gaming companies, various positions are filled quite equally by men and women,” says Hilda. “This scenario is reflected in Malta and across Europe, where we work with clients in a range of locations, including Tallinn, Barcelona, Vienna and Athens.”
Photo by Alan Carville
Turning the focus towards the rise of remote work since the start of the pandemic, has this impacted the attractiveness of the industry among new recruits? Whereas previously, companies placed a lot of emphasis on in-office benefits and perks, the scenario today is radically different, and companies are having to think of new ways to lure top talent to their ranks. Hilda believes that remote working hasn’t dampened the appeal of iGaming companies – in fact, the opposite can be said. “The attractive office environment is still there and still being offered as an option by most companies, but since COVID, many employees are now looking for a remote option as part of their work arrangement, as well as many other WFH benefits, such as child care cost support, so this has been used as a new and tempting benefit for gaming companies to attract new talent.” Going forward, she believes many companies will continue to offer remote work as an option. “It is proven now that remote work can be done without affecting productivity, and many recruits are looking for this kind of flexibility,” says Hilda. “In Malta and other European gaming hubs, companies have a great mix of nationalities in their workforce, so having this flexibility is a big benefit for employees who can travel home or spare themselves a long commute to work every day. More and more companies are opening up to this now, and it’s perceived as a positive development within the industry by employers and employees alike.”
ANTHONY MURPHY, SENIOR IGAMING CONSULTANT
For Senior iGaming Consultant, Anthony Murphy, the biggest trend to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis in the recruitment requirements of gaming companies is undoubtedly the rise of remote working. “The move to a remote lifestyle was met with a bit of trepidation initially, but what we’ve seen is that innovators tend to do quite well. Employers have come to understand that they have to offer a hybrid or remote option
SUMMER 2021 RECRUITMENT
LOURENS PAHUD DE MORTANGES, TECH CONSULTANT MANAGER
when attracting and hiring talent, and those who really embraced this are ahead of the game.”
Sharing what he believes to be the most important factors recruits should consider from a prospective Additionally, employers are understanding the need to employer when entering the iGaming sector, Tech tailor perks and benefits for their employees – a oneConsultant Manager, Lourens Pahud de Mortanges, size-fits-all approach is no longer deemed the best says with Malta being such a small country, “really do way forward. Anthony explains that, so far, companies consider your network – who already works here or have been quite rigid about the benefits they offer to has worked here before.” their staff, irrespective of whether they employ 10 or 200 people, such as an annual gym membership and Lourens also highlights the importance of company parking facilities. culture, and whether the company one is looking to move to practices a work culture that is deemed attractive. Photo by Alan Carville “It’s important to consider more than ‘I want to work in iGaming’. You should think what you would like to achieve whilst working in the industry – would you like to work for an operator, supplier or affiliate? They are different businesses, offering different products and ultimately you should really get your head around what matters to you and the business you work in.”
Offering a snapshot of the industry’s top role requirements in today’s climate, Lourens asserts “iGaming is a strong market, but if there had to be cutbacks, those in tech are always the last people standing, which includes a diverse range of roles, from developers to quality assurance specialists and engineers.”
Anthony continues that the perks typically offered by gaming companies before the pandemic, such as free meals and Friday drinks at the office, also had to be revised. “Companies still want their employees to return to the office, but they’ve had to re-evaluate what people would buy into, to retain the staff they have and stay ahead of the competition.” Turning to Boston Link’s 2021 Salary Survey, I draw Anthony’s attention towards an intriguing point –salaries for senior iGaming roles have seen a marked increase over the past year, but the same cannot be said for junior level employees. Sharing his thoughts on the reason behind this, the Consultant says this could be attributed to a larger pool of junior skilled recruits as more people are trying to get into the industry. “Another reason could be consolidation. There are some big operators taking over smaller companies, who have more freedom and resources to take on junior staff because they have a solid structure and offer a good training programme,” says Anthony. “This means they’re able to take someone on with little to no experience, enrol them in their training programme, hire for the right attitude and the by-product of that is that they can offer them a lower wage, while offering them the opportunity to move up the ranks.”
And while the demand for talent is strong, standing out in such a fast-paced and competitive industry is still no easy task. Lourens recommends that candidates be driven and involved in the company’s culture and vision to really make their mark. “We tend to see employers often look for candidates who contribute to the company, those who offer more than just a task ‘tick box’. Whether that’s participating in cultural zoom quizzes or new projects, or simply helping others in the team, it really pays off to go above and beyond your check list.” Visit www.boston-link.com to speak to a recruiter about your career or recruitment strategies. Photo by Alan Carville
“However, not everybody would want €400 to go to the gym – perhaps someone would like to give it to charity, spend it on travel, on something that benefits their mental health, or on a new gadget. This trend started emerging pre-COVID, a new kind of approach to wellness among employees, where employers realised that a blanket approach doesn’t work as people have different lifestyles, and so would appreciate different perks.”
Indeed, he advises to “think about the long-term plan, and what your career goals align to. In fact, your work should be your passion, you should enjoy it because it is a big chunk of your life. Boston Link is in a really lucky position to have a good overview of the whole industry, so we can guide candidates to understand the industry and choose the best culture that suits them.”
SUMMER 2021 FOCUS
MA K I N G T HE CA S E FO R
gambling From working with an affiliate gaming company to setting up a platform dedicated to helping players with a gambling addiction, Anders Bergman is driving the change he wishes to see in the industry. The Founder of QuitGamble.com speaks about his newly launched platform to Martina Said – and how it seeks to help vulnerable players battle addiction.
o me, it has nothing to do with one’s finances. Instead, it’s about why a person gambles,” says Anders Bergman. As the founder of QuitGamble.com, which has been a few years in the making and officially launched in March 2021, Mr Bergman has taken a novel approach to tackling gambling addiction through his platform – by identifying why people gamble in the first place and getting to the root of their addiction. Mr Bergman’s journey to this point could be considered somewhat unusual – with an academic background in economics and civil engineering, he entered the iGaming world in 2014 as an affiliate,
but four years later, grew dissatisfied with the work, “and I wanted to do something else.” Despite his many research interests, Mr Bergman says his side-studies in psychology and personal development are what piqued his interest the most. “I read studies about heroin addicts in the US, Portugal, Switzerland, and the famous rat park experiments by Bruce Alexander, and I realised that there was so much more to addiction than I had thought.” “I’ve always gone my own way, and challenging the status quo of addiction felt like just the perfect thing to do,” he explains, adding that this
SUMMER 2021 FOCUS
“THE ONLY WAY TO GAMBLE RESPONSIBLY IS TO GAMBLE FOR ENTERTAINMENT. AS SOON AS THE ‘WHY’ CHANGES TO WINNING MONEY, I BELIEVE THE PERSON IS OUT ON THIN ICE.” project enabled him to combine his interests in personal development with his expertise in tech. “There are many ways to treat addiction, but few are effective. My ambition with QuitGamble.com was to create something that could change that; a tool that is inexpensive, scalable, and fun to use.”
mustn’t play for more than they can afford. In his view, however, it has nothing to do with finances, and all about why a person gambles in the first place. “The only way to gamble responsibly is to gamble for entertainment. As soon as the ‘why’ changes to winning money, I believe the person is out on thin ice,” he asserts. “When I meet someone with gambling problems, I ask them: what is gambling doing for you? What happens when you gamble? Does it create a moment of peace? A period when nothing else matters? The answers can explain why it’s so hard to quit, so it’s all about finding out the ‘why’.” >
The very notion of responsible gambling – a form of social responsibility established by the gaming industry, including governments and operators – appears, in itself, to be contradictory. Is it really possible to gamble responsibly? Mr Bergman says that the widespread definition and understanding of responsible gambling has to do with financial means, that in order to play responsibly, one
SUMMER 2021 FOCUS
“THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO TREAT ADDICTION, BUT FEW ARE EFFECTIVE. MY AMBITION WITH QUITGAMBLE.COM WAS TO CREATE SOMETHING THAT COULD CHANGE THAT.” >
To this end, QuitGamble.com is built around the belief that pain is the cause of addiction. “People get addicted to the escape from pain. Gambling, alcohol, and drugs are just ways to escape pain,” says Mr Bergman. Through the platform’s unique ‘Happiness Test’, “we help people understand what in their life causes them pain. Then we help them ease or eliminate these sources of pain through 15 animated video courses. Each course targets sources of pain such as loneliness, stress, feeling of inadequacy, the anxiety of health, and boredom.”
He believes that, with this in mind, the only way to get the industry to take responsible gambling more seriously is to find a way for companies to make similar money on a customer, but over a longer period of time, lessening the financial strain on players in one burst. “Most companies are doing what is required by regulations, but not more. Here too I think that we, who work in the field of problem gambling, need to help them. Firstly, I suggest changing the focus of what responsible gambling is, and, following this, establishing closer collaboration between the gambling industry and organisations like QuitGamble.com.” Mr Bergman insists that the industry is still in its early days of addressing gambling addiction and working with organisations dedicated to tackling this problem. “The authorities are regulating and using punishment to force companies to do their part for responsible gambling,” he asserts. “As a result, the regulated casinos are required to follow the rules, while unlicensed casinos are roaming free.” “Currently, competition on the market isn’t fair and it is not a level playing field, which in turn drives the regulated casinos to carry out shady activities,” he adds. “To get casinos more interested in responsible gambling, the authorities need to establish a fair market first and foremost. Only then, I believe, will there be room for more collaboration between iGaming companies and those who work with problem gambling.” >
Complementing this platform, and currently in the works, is a social community which the Founder describes as being “like Facebook, but for problem gamblers – a place where people can chat, make new friends, and collaborate. We want to challenge people to help themselves by helping others. Like Johann Hari said in his famous Ted Talk, ‘the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection.’ We want to help people reconnect.” Having worked in the gaming industry and now dedicated to helping people address their addiction to gambling, Mr Bergman is in a unique position to understand both sides of responsible gaming. Asked if gaming companies are doing enough to promote this and to protecting their players, Mr Bergman says “the sooner we accept that iGaming companies are companies, the better. No company in the world would want to get rid of their best customers. So why do we expect gambling companies to do so?”
SUMMER 2021 FOCUS
While the platform had been in the works since 2018, it only went live in March 2021 – following a somewhat extraordinary year for the industry throughout 2020, which saw operators lose chunks of business as a result of COVID-19, such as sportsbook through the widespread cancellation of sport activities. On the other hand, however, revenues for their online gaming activities appear to have soared, with some companies registering record profits. This begs the questions – did cases of gambling addiction also increase since the pandemic, as more and more people spent time locked up inside and in search of entertainment? Mr Bergman says that, as QuitGamble.com was launched three months ago, he cannot say whether there’s been an increase in gambling addiction through activity on his platform. However, as someone who forms part of the problem gambling community, he says that COVID-19 has impacted some players positively and others negatively. “Many problem gamblers have reported that the COVID-19 lockdowns have been a blessing as suddenly, it was impossible to visit the physical casinos. However, for those who gamble online, the problem seems to have increased.”
Turning to the future of QuitGamble.com and whether there are bigger plans for it in the pipeline, Mr Bergman says that currently, all the focus is on developing the platform with the aim of really helping people to quit gambling. “We’ll continue to build the platform by adding new programmes and features and, most importantly, we want to see the number of users increase and thus seek help. At the same time, we will be reaching out to companies in the iGaming industry to establish collaborations. We hope to play an important part in their responsible gambling processes for active players and players who need extra support in dealing with gambling problems,” Mr Bergman concludes. “Eventually, we want to be the go-to choice for people who need help to kick gambling addiction’s ass.”
Working in a field such as gambling addiction comes with various challenges, but the QuiteGamble.com Founder admits “I love what I do. I get to challenge myself every day, and I have an opportunity to learn new things. How many people can read a book for an entire day and call it work? QuitGamble.com is an entirely new way of dealing with problem gambling and challenging the status quo of addiction is a perfect fit for my personality,” he asserts, adding that the organisation’s biggest challenge right now is “to establish ourselves as an option for people with gambling problems.”
“NO COMPANY IN THE WORLD WOULD WANT TO GET RID OF THEIR BEST CUSTOMERS. SO WHY DO WE EXPECT GAMBLING COMPANIES TO DO SO?” 066
SUMMER 2021 PROPERTY
SUMMER 2021 PROPERTY
M A LTA’ S R E N TAL PR I C E D R OP :
‘Better days will be back, but we must not forget pandemic lessons’ Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, local rental rates fell by 11 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, according to research carried out by economists at the Central Bank of Malta. As a result, leading estate agents are reporting that most expats are now managing to satisfy their expectations and are finding better property within their budget. Sarah Micallef speaks to Frank Salt Real Estate Letting Manager Philippa Tabone and Ben Estates Franchise Owner and Manager Henry Zammit to find out more.
hile rents have fallen, the market has remained very active,” says Frank Salt Real Estate Letting Manager Philippa Tabone, addressing the local drop in rental rates as a result of the global pandemic. Explaining that rental rates decreased mainly due to the healthy supply of properties that came onto the books from the short-let market, she explains, “we had a healthy turnaround, though obviously nothing compared to the usual mad demand we’ve experienced in the past few years.” >
SUMMER 2021 PROPERTY
“AS LONG AS WE KEEP SEEING A HEALTHY SUPPLY OF GOOD RENTAL PROPERTIES, THE PRICES SHOULD REMAIN STABLE.” Philippa Tabone, Letting Manager, Frank Salt Real Estate
and short-let holiday bookings,” she explains, noting that while the island hasn’t yet felt a major increase in rental prices, “as demand increases, so will rents.”
According to Henry Zammit, Franchise Owner and Manager at Ben Estates, the price drop is most likely to affect investors that were still new to the market with a new property for rent. Still, he says, investing in property was never a shortterm thing. “I strongly believe that better days are heading our way, and investors will recuperate their losses. On the other hand, clients will benefit from this situation, getting better prices for a few years, which makes the situation fair for both parties,” he affirms.
Indeed, 83 per cent of lessees in Malta are of foreign nationality, according to The Annual Malta Residential Rental Study published last month. As things stand, both Ms Tabone and Mr Zammit feel that most expats are managing to satisfy their expectations when it comes to finding a rental property, with Mr Zammit noting that “the market has a good number of units, meaning that one can have a few options to choose from and not have to grab the first one available at the time.” >
Some have even expressed the sentiment that the drop has corrected the property price bubble in Malta, correcting over-pricing in key locations. Acknowledging that the situation “may have helped get prices back on track, since a few areas have been set to become over-priced,” Mr Zammit reiterates that an investment in property is long term, emphasising that “having an impression that the property can be rented at a higher price just because we are passing through a good quarter is not healthy for owners.” Meanwhile, Ms Tabone downplays the notion of a property price bubble, arguing that market prices are not determined by agents or landlords, but by tenants. “The price or value of a property is what someone is willing to pay for it. Granted, there has been an excessive demand in the last few years and not enough supply,” she maintains, attributing this to a good number of units being made available on the long-let market. “I think there was a need for an adjustment in prices as rents were increasing in an unjustified manner. As long as we keep seeing a healthy supply of good rental properties, the prices should remain stable,” the Letting Manager notes. And now, just over a year on from the onset of the pandemic on our shores, Ms Tabone believes the situation in relation to rental rates has already shifted, particularly since the start of 2021. “We are seeing a steady increase in demand as everything is starting to open up. As a country, Malta currently has one of the highest vaccinated populations in the world, so while we are seeing things improving locally, we are also expecting to see far more incoming travel, both in terms of expat relocations
SUMMER 2021 PROPERTY
“I STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT BETTER DAYS ARE HEADING OUR WAY, AND INVESTORS WILL RECUPERATE THEIR LOSSES.”
Henry Zammit, Franchise Owner and Manager, Ben Estates
Still, Ms Tabone admits that “unrealistic” requests do also come in. “We have people expecting sea views and a whole lot more for a fraction of what they really cost. Malta is not a cheap, developing country. We have a lot to offer – it’s safe, travel distances are relatively short, the weather is amazing, travel to and from Malta is easy, work-life balance is achievable; so yes, sometimes people’s expectations are a bit unrealistic, but when one takes into consideration the benefits of living in Malta, they will realise they are getting more than expected,” she says.
in the industry also helps in a major way. “This will help maintain standards across the board and we will start moving towards a more professional approach to pricing and overall service,” she believes. Meanwhile, on his part, Mr Zammit feels that the lessons imparted by the COVID-19 pandemic should not be forgotten, not only in relation to rental prices, but also when it comes to the relationship between tenants and property owners. “During COVID, we had owners who were willing to help tenants out when they had a hard time paying rent,” he points out, arguing that “owners should appreciate their clients more, because without clients there is no need for their property.”
Looking ahead, Ms Tabone maintains that while the island already has a lot to offer, the property market is continually developing and growing. “There are some exciting projects that will be completed in the next few years and this will improve certain areas, such as the entertainment area,” she reveals, adding that the properties within these developments will also create a fresh supply of rental opportunities once on the market.
Looking towards the future of the industry, he adds, “if we grow at a slower pace, I think we will all hurt a bit less if something like this were to ever happen again. Malta is a small island and I’m very confident that better days will be back soon, but we must not forget this experience.”
“I also hope to see more sustainable developments that can add to the supply of good rental properties. This to maintain the supply-demand curve and avoid rocketing prices,” she adds, going on to highlight that the new law whereby estate agents have to be fully qualified and licensed in order to work
SUMMER 2021 HEALTH
ENSURING EXCELLENCE IN A
COVID -19 T EST ING SERVICE
Since the onset of the global pandemic, testing for COVID-19 has become standard for safeguarding the health, safety and well-being of the public. Elena Zarb, Lead Clinical Pharmacist at Brown’s Pharma, explains to Sarah Micallef how the largest retail pharmacy chain in Malta is helping to contain the spread and keep infection rates low.
ike many other businesses in Malta and around the world, once the pandemic hit our shores in March 2020, we were faced with a lot of challenges,” reveals Elena Zarb, Lead Clinical Pharmacist at Brown’s Pharma, acknowledging how the global pandemic has impacted the lives and livelihoods of many, near and far. Addressing the challenges brought about by COVID-19, Dr Zarb says that for Brown’s, the main challenge was adopting agile and innovative methods of operating. “The pharmacy profession is all about people-to-people contact – we love to be there for our clients,” she explains, affirming that their primary focus was to maintain a
SUMMER 2021 HEALTH
“THE PHARMACY PROFESSION IS ALL ABOUT PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE CONTACT – WE LOVE TO BE THERE FOR OUR CLIENTS.” healthy workforce so as to ensure a continuous and seamless service to the communities they serve. “We were committed to the healthy well-being of the people we are responsible for,” she says. Having graduated as a Pharmacist from the University of Malta and reading for a Doctorate in Pharmacy in Malta in collaboration with the University of Illinois, Dr Zarb began her journey with Brown’s Pharma as a Managing Pharmacist at one of its pharmacies, going on to pursue her studies while in full-time employment, and eventually specialising in the provision of patient-focused services and evidencebased treatment. As Lead Clinical Pharmacist within the largest retail pharmacy chain in Malta, Dr Zarb pioneered the one-on-one client service provided across the company’s outlets. The first of its kind in Malta, it provides individualised pharmaceutical care and enables the community pharmacist to support patients with chronic conditions. Most recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Zarb was entrusted with leading Brown’s latest innovative project, Brown’s COVID-19 Screening Services.
The company established Brown’s + HSE Screening Centre in November 2020, in order to offer fast, professional and reliable diagnostic testing. “Brown’s and HSE Laboratories have specialised in COVID-19 Screening Testing to help curb spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing capacity and improving accessibility of screening tests that detect active COVID-19 infection, without delays in receipt of test results,” she explains. She describes the aim of the screening service as that of safeguarding the health, safety and wellbeing of individuals, whilst ensuring that a safe environment is maintained by containing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping infection rates low in Malta, and by reducing active, imported and widespread transmission of the virus. The collaboration, she continues, brings to bear the collective experience and reputation garnered by both parties, with Brown’s Pharma and HSE Laboratories working tirelessly to ensure excellence in the provision of a holistic, professional, and easily accessible COVID-19 testing service. “The synergy of the parties brings the needed expertise and peace of mind to the end user and the community,” she describes. Meanwhile, detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) outline all the processes followed within the organisation to ensure that the professionals delivering the service offer an excellent customer experience. Dr Zarb also affirms that health and safety policies are in place to ensure that services are offered from clean, safe and secure environments whilst always complying with all regulations. “In the past months, thousands of clients have used the service. We have gained experience in handling large groups of individuals, their personal data and processing of their test results,” she maintains. >
SUMMER 2021 HEALTH
“IN THE PAST MONTHS, THOUSANDS OF CLIENTS HAVE USED THE [COVID-19 SCREENING] SERVICE.” >
Detailing the services available, Dr Zarb explains that Brown’s currently offers two types of COVID-19 tests: RT-PCR tests and Rapid Antigen tests. Breaking down the difference between the two in clinical terms, she maintains that the Rapid Antigen diagnostic test detects the presence of viral proteins (or antigens) expressed by the COVID-19 virus in the respiratory tract within 15-30 minutes. “The antigens detected are expressed only when the virus is actively replicating; therefore, such tests are best used to identify acute or early infection. The test would provide a qualitative ‘yes/no’ answer on the presence of the virus in the patient sample,” she notes, adding that this type of test serves as a valuable initial screening test for individuals that have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 infected patients, or those who are in high-risk environments. “The screening test can be used for both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals,” she continues, highlighting that the rapid antigen kit has a sensitivity of 98.1 per cent and a specificity of 99.8 per cent, and is listed on the WHO emergency use listing for in vitro diagnostics detecting COVID-19. Meanwhile, an RT-PCR is a molecular test that detects virus genetic material using a laboratory technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). “RT-PCR is considered the gold standard in diagnostic testing for COVID-19,” Dr Zarb says, describing it as the ideal diagnostic since it is both specific and sensitive, even at extremely low viral concentrations. “An RT-PCR is considered the most sensitive method for COVID-19 testing, since the system amplifies viral genetic material by replicating it,” she explains, emphasising that any traces of the virus will be detected, and will confirm if the patient has an active COVID-19 virus infection. “The RT-PCR test is the ideal test for individuals who are symptomatic, or for those that were in contact with persons who previously tested positive,” Dr Zarb says.
Speaking of the crucial function of COVID-19 testing in relation to local business – including the iGaming industry, which is counted among the major contributors to the Maltese economy – the Lead Clinical Pharmacist maintains that having COVID-19 testing widely available gives the industry the right tools to reignite business-tobusiness and peer-to-peer business functions. “Organising large meetings and gatherings is now more feasible, albeit with restrictions,” she says, highlighting that “the availability of these tests, together with Malta’s excellent epidemiological situation and the success of the vaccination programme, are all components that will help not just the iGaming Industry, but even tourism, international sporting events, international mass events (eventually), the sector of English language teaching, and even the local film industry.”
SUMMER 2021 HEALTH
Describing the film industry as being among the only ones that continued to operate to a certain degree of normality, citing “regular testing for all cast and crew of the productions which were filmed in Malta over the months of the pandemic,” she adds, “we at Brown’s are particularly proud and honoured to have been entrusted with this task.”
vaccination certificate will also be used, it is even more important to check the COVID-19 entry requirements of each country, as some countries might still demand a negative PCR test for entry/exit,” she says. Finally, as the world yearns for a return to pre-pandemic normality and vaccination drives continue to roll out across the globe, Dr Zarb reveals that COVID-19 testing may be important for a while yet. “It is still unclear if the vaccines prevent individuals from getting infected and transmitting the virus, with some clinical studies demonstrating that vaccination does lead to a drop in the viral load but does not completely eliminate the number of COVID-19 infections,” she states.
Meanwhile, as international travel takes off again, many countries require travellers to present a negative PCR test before entering the country. Dr Zarb attests that even before the pandemic hit the world, it had already been established that RT-PCR is the gold standard methodology, offering reliability and accuracy in the field of virology. “People around the world have deprived themselves of travelling out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Now that the situation is reverting to normal and people have begun to cross borders, the RT-PCR and the antigen test can offer peace of mind to those in transit, together with ensuring containment across countries,” she maintains. Indeed, with the tourism industry among those most badly hit by the pandemic, which in return has a
“Vaccinated individuals could potentially still become infected and spread the virus to others, therefore COVID-19 testing and observation of hand hygiene and social distancing is still considered important to control COVID-19 transmission moving forward,” Dr Zarb concludes.
“COVID-19 TESTING HAS BEEN, AND WILL REMAIN, IMPORTANT AS MOST COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD HAVE NOW STARTED TO REOPEN THEIR BORDERS.”
negative impact on the economy, Dr Zarb says that testing ensures that a safe environment is maintained by containing the spread and keeping infection rates low by reducing active, imported and widespread transmission. “This is why COVID-19 testing has been, and will remain, important as most countries around the world have now started to reopen their borders,” the Pharmacist continues, offering a suggestion to travellers to properly check where they can find testing facilities in the country they are visiting, and to also check whether this can be booked in advance. “As we now move into an era where the
SUMMER 2021 ANALYSIS
B O LST E R IN G
integrity security AND
As of the beginning of this year, all B2C licence-holders in the iGaming sector have to report any suspicious transactions through a new online portal launched by the Malta Gaming Authority. Here, Rebecca Anastasi speaks to industry stakeholders to discover how it has changed the playing field.
ollowing a public consultation process with industry stakeholders – and the subsequent publication of feedback and emerging guidelines in October 2020 – the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) introduced new compliance regulations requiring business-to-consumer iGaming operators in the field of sports betting to report instances of suspicious bets to the authority through a new online platform, the Suspicious Betting Reporting Mechanism (SBRM).
SUMMER 2021 ANALYSIS
“IT IS VITAL THAT BOTH LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL SPORTS GOVERNING BODIES, REGULATORS AND OPERATORS WORK TOGETHER.” Karl Gonzi, Managing Director, Entain
The portal was established with the aim of providing an efficient system by which these iGaming companies can fulfil their legal obligations in the fight against money laundering and financial crime, while ensuring their integrity and reputation. It was made available on the 23rd November last year, giving firms almost six weeks to test the mechanism before the obligation to report suspicious betting came into effect on the 1st January 2021.
A spokesperson for Tipico, one of Europe’s most recognisable sports betting brands, echoes these sentiments, calling the new mechanism “a positive development for Malta”, since it encourages transparency and accountability.
Karl Gonzi, the local Managing Director for Entain, the international iGaming firm behind bwin, Ladbrokes, partypoker, partycasino and Coral, calls the new requirements “another step forward in the country’s efforts to help protect the integrity of sport and betting, following the enactment of the Prevention of Corruption in Sport Act in 2018, the establishment of the MGA’s Sports Integrity Unit in 2019 and the consultation process undertaken by the MGA last year.”
“With the new requirements, the MGA has enhanced communication and the exchange of alerts received by different monitoring systems. As these are used by the providers, it may result in an increased capacity to identify potential fraud and manipulation. Ultimately, through collecting consistent data, manipulation can be prosecuted more thoroughly,” the spokesperson asserted. Moreover, reflecting the experience of Entain, Tipico has not registered any negative impact on its operations, since the information had to be submitted to authorities in other jurisdictions. However, the company is driven to see more harmonisation across countries in this regard, and proposes that a single, centralised authority would be responsible for collecting suspicious reports and sharing them amongst the concerned countries.
The new system is “user friendly and easily navigable”, Mr Gonzi says, adding that it is now much simpler to file a Suspicious Betting Report and to upload all required files than it has been in recent years. “Whereas before, suspicious betting reports used to be communicated by means of emails to the various authorities, it is now easier and more straight forward.” Moreover, the recently introduced mechanism has had no impact on the company’s internal process since such suspicious betting reports used to be prepared for other jurisdictions at any rate.
“Since we are operating across jurisdictions, it would certainly be more efficient if we would only have to deal with a single authority – hence sharing information once. While this might not be feasible in the short-term future, we have seen significant progress in cooperation amongst different gaming authorities in this area and welcome these efforts,” the company affirms. Yet, overall, the spokesperson insists on the productivity of the new system and requirements. “Looking ahead, we think that the impact will be positive. The MGA will now have access to a large and consistent set of data allowing for the analysis and evaluation of potentially fraudulent activities. Therefore, it contributes significantly to the fight against fraud in the industry. And we are happy to contribute our part to it,” they conclude. >
Fundamentally, for the Managing Director, the new requirements, together with the SBRM, “represent another opportunity to continue to build trusted relationships with our customers and other stakeholders”, for “it is vital that both local and international sports governing bodies, regulators and operators work together and maintain constant dialogue to ensure that sport is conducted in a fair and open manner while remaining corruption-free.” Indeed, he continues, “these new requirements are a big piece in that puzzle at a local level and indicate Malta’s willingness to do its part in this major and continuing challenge.”
SUMMER 2021 ANALYSIS
IZIBET, a well-known name in the sports betting sector, was one of the 10 firms actively involved in the consultation process which framed the launch of the MGA’s requirements and SBRM. Sergio Cappitta, the Head of Retail Operations for the iGaming company, insists the system will place “Malta at the forefront against fraudulent betting operations”, keenly supported by the firm which, he says, is “adamant to continue encouraging the implementation of stringent requirements by the authority, which will regulate proficiently various sectors of the gaming industry.”
“THROUGH COLLECTING CONSISTENT DATA, MANIPULATION CAN BE PROSECUTED MORE THOROUGHLY.”
However, Mr Cappitta does see a potential challenge ahead. “A possible difficulty that could stem from close surveillance of sports betting, though, remains how potential conflicts would be settled between operators and affected consumers. Operators might be faced with potential disputes by genuine consumers who may find their winnings being withheld due to the launch of a sporting investigation. That said, the Sports Integrity Unit within MGA has committed to providing operators updates in real-time, making it possible for them to advise affected consumers with progress of their disputes,” he asserts. The possibility of such disputes is a delicate matter and, for this reason, as well as due to the scepticism surrounding betting in Malta and to ensure a complete separation from any potential conflict of interest, the firm “took a bold decision” not to offer betting on events organised locally, or which feature a Maltese athlete or team.
Despite the fact that some initiatives are still in their infancy, the entire movement towards a fair and transparent sports betting industry gives confidence and trust that legitimate practices will succeed.” Taking a more legal perspective, Reuben Portanier, Partner at the gaming advisory firm, Afilexion Alliance, and former MGA CEO, asserts that the introduction of the SBRM was another milestone in a series of accomplishments for the authority, aiming to institute measures to combat match fixing: in 2012, the MGA was, indeed, the first gambling regulator to sign MOUs with the Early Warning Systems of FIFA, the International Olympic Committee and the European Sports Security Association; and, more recently, the MGA also signed sport integrity MOUs with the eSports Coalition (2017), The International Betting Integrity Association (2019), Tennis Integrity Unit (2019), Darts Regulatory Authority (2020) and with the football associations of Malta, Sweden and Slovakia. The recent establishment of the Sports Integrity Unit in 2019 has also proven that “Malta has raised the bar and set a benchmark for other regulatory bodies to follow in combatting the manipulation of sport results,” Mr Portanier says. He sees this as productive not only for the jurisdiction, but for the operators themselves, since “sport integrity is not only important to sport itself but is also important for the business of the betting industry.”
“We look forward to an environment in which local sports associations and the gaming regulator collaborate in such a way so as to provide operators and players alike with the peace of mind that betting on local sports activities is legitimate. We are encouraged by initiatives that have already taken place – namely the set-up of the Anti-Corruption Task Force within the MFA and the Sports Integrity Unit at MGA – which bodes well for football competitions in Malta,” he explains.
He does, however, see a potential impact on regulators that have not had to invest in such a reporting mechanism beforehand. “MGA licensed B2C betting operators have a number of compliance and reporting obligations that do have an impact on day-to-day operations. Although most betting operators already had early warning and anti-fraud systems on suspicious bets, the introduction of the SBRM set a change in their modus operandi,” he explains.
Within this context, Mr Cappitta praises the action taken by the local regulator in protecting the sector, as well as the professionalism of iGaming firms. “The efforts undertaken by all the stakeholders in the industry, including sports associations, gaming operators and the gaming regulators, augur well for the future of the sports betting industry, globally. The drive to ensure that integrity in sports betting prevails is the cornerstone of the future of the industry.
“Such changes include vesting the Compliance Officer with the responsibility of being a company’s Designated Point of Contact on suspicious betting; periodic mandatory reporting requirements; the >
SUMMER 2021 ANALYSIS
“THE EFFORTS UNDERTAKEN BY ALL THE STAKEHOLDERS IN THE INDUSTRY… AUGUR WELL FOR THE FUTURE OF THE SPORTS BETTING INDUSTRY, GLOBALLY.” >
Sergio Cappitta, Head of Retail Operations, IZIBET
structuring of suspicious betting data and behaviour; and the establishment of an internal reporting system that would facilitate the periodic compilation of the suspicious betting report. Moreover, the betting operator needs to be geared up in the event that a request for information on particular bets or sporting events are requested by the MGA as per article 7(2)(d) of the Gaming Act (Chapter 583 of the Laws of Malta),” Mr Portanier continues.
a central identification of ‘risky’ events based on betting behavioural data which could be shared in real time with the MGA betting licensees, and, thus, allow for better monitoring of suspicious activity across all operators.” Ultimately, however, the system is in line with the immediate and long-term goals of fighting the manipulation of sports results, he concludes, saying that “a healthy and profitable betting sector needs to be based on sport events that are not only played fairly, but in which punters have the confidence that the events they are betting on are indeed free from manipulation.”
Indeed, despite efforts to simplify the SBRM as much as possible, the “the operator is still required to dedicate time and effort in order to distinguish between a false alert and a suspicious alert, and to determine sport events which may present a higher risk – or the potential – of being manipulated.” In light of this, Mr Portanier states that possible improvements would be for “the MGA to assess the possibility of a ‘pull’ option for data collection as opposed to a ‘push’ approach. Moreover, should a ‘pull’ data collection system be in place, the introduction of an AI based functionality could allow
“MALTA HAS RAISED THE BAR… FOR OTHER REGULATORY BODIES TO FOLLOW IN COMBATTING THE MANIPULATION OF SPORT RESULTS.” Reuben Portanier, Partner, Afilexion Alliance
SUMMER 2021 COMPLIANCE
FO ST E RI NG A
stronger future Sustainability in iGaming has customarily – and rightly – focused on player protection. The question is, can the industry do more to trigger a more multifaceted socio-environmental impact? Entain’s Karl Gonzi gives Rebecca Cachia the answer.
f a word could capture the last decade of global debate, it would be ‘sustainability’ – and the same is true within the iGaming sector. With technology at their core, industry players are uniquely positioned to harness their platforms’ power to inspire and engage people worldwide, which makes them essential partners in addressing the climate crisis and other societal issues.
iconic brands, including bwin, Ladbrokes, PartyCasino and Sportingbet. Entain still runs significant operations out of its hubs in Gibraltar, the UK, Austria and elsewhere, but opening an office in Malta was important to secure an anchor in Europe’s iGaming capital. Worth over €1.1 billion, Malta’s gaming sector has blossomed into one of the most progressive and innovative markets globally. “To this day, iGaming remains one of the country’s biggest sources of employment, to which Entain is now contributing several career opportunities,” continues Mr Gonzi. “Our local team has almost tripled in the last year alone, and while we’re growing, we’re being strategic rather than prioritising growth for the sake of it. Our purpose is to revolutionise sports betting and gaming to create the most exciting and trusted entertainment for our customers.”
And the big names among the world’s online betting and gaming operators know this. In fact, in November 2020, Entain launched its comprehensive Sustainability Charter to step things up a notch and formalise its belief that longterm sustainability is the key to even longer-term success. “Sustainable businesses are vital to the integrity of the iGaming industry,” begins Karl Gonzi, who joined Entain as Managing Director of its Malta office in 2019. From the island, the multinational gaming giant works on some of the sector’s most
To this end, Entain’s Sustainability Charter consolidates its sustainability goals under four pillars:
SUMMER 2021 COMPLIANCE
Regulation, Responsibility, Corporate Governance, and People and Communities. The aim is to add real value to its customers and employees, thereby creating thrilling moments, elevating player protection, and ensuring that the business is built on solid foundations with a view to ensuring long-term stability and growth. “As the first of our sustainability pillars, regulation is vital. Without it, we would be working in a grey area where risk and uncertainty are high,” explains Mr Gonzi. “Entain operates in nationally regulated or regulating markets, to give us more control as a business. Within an established and sensible legislative framework, we can forecast more accurately and take action more effectively to sustain our business. It also gives peace of mind to our shareholders, players and other stakeholders.” Still, the evolution of regulation is crucial in an everchanging tech space like iGaming. A case in point is the recent consultation process run by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) regarding the streamlining of the return-to-player percentage (RTP) applicable to remote and land-based gaming. “By consulting industry players before enacting RTP-related changes to its regulations, the MGA could base its research on expert opinion about the current market and player experience. It is this kind of proactive regulator engagement that leads to real, effective and sustainable industry advancement,” asserts Mr Gonzi. Entain’s second sustainability principle centres on the responsibility it holds towards its players. “The company is taking a scientific approach to safer gambling by leveraging technology,” clarifies the Managing Director. “Our team is working on a ground-breaking AI-assisted system we’re calling our ARC (Advanced Responsibility and Care) programme. The idea is to protect players and proactively, and in real time, assess risk and direct players into a safer gambling experience when necessary. Through this system, we’ll be able to identify a player’s gambling problem before it manifests itself. What’s more, from 2021, a responsible gambling metric is being incorporated into the company’s annual bonus conditions too.”
Likewise, the Group is also raising the bar for corporate governance – its third sustainability pillar. By strengthening its board, introducing more diversity, and developing robust corporate governance structures and policies, Entain is setting the highest operational standards that befit its status as a FTSE 100 company. “We are also committed to being the best place to work,” continues Mr Gonzi. “As a people-driven business, we strive to find, develop and retain the best talent from all backgrounds. We value our employees’ judgement and encourage them to bring their ethics to work.” The company has also committed €115 million to community initiatives worldwide through its Entain Foundation, which – among other projects – drives and supports research, sport, and education and treatment relating to safer gaming. “In Malta, we joined an industry-wide initiative to procure face masks for frontliners during the pandemic, we are aiming to become carbon-neutral by 2035, and we are also involved in clean-ups and other community endeavours,” explains Mr Gonzi in his closing remarks. “By tackling sustainability’s many faces, I believe Entain will continue solidifying itself as one of the world’s biggest names in iGaming. Importantly, when there is the drive to improve, the entire sector stands to benefit: it will become safer, more inclusive and, ultimately, more sustainable.”
“SUSTAINABLE BUSINESSES ARE VITAL TO THE INTEGRITY OF THE IGAMING INDUSTRY.” 087
SUMMER 2021 INDUSTRY NEWS
Gaming industry personnel being assisted by GamingMalta’s team during the Foundation’s COVID-19 Vaccination Initiative
Gaming Malta Ivan Filletti, COO at GamingMalta Foundation
BEYON D A PR OM OTIO N AL ARM
2021 ushered in the sense of hope and determination for a post-COVID-19 era. The local gaming industry has embraced this challenge and adapted to the new realities.
Hon. Silvio Schembri, Minister for the Economy and Industry
he GamingMalta Foundation, a foundation set up by the Maltese Government and the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) to promote the local and digital remote gaming sector by focusing on three main gaming verticals – iGaming, Video Gaming and Esports – is continuing to serve these sectors and spearheading a host of initiatives on this front. The foundation’s remit today goes beyond its promotional efforts. It is also a bridge between the gaming industry and Government, as reflected during the tough, unprecedented times brought about by COVID-19. Promoting the island’s gaming ecosystem remains a priority; it has also accelerated its efforts to serve as an outreach for the sector, identifying immediate needs and support.
SUMMER 2021 INDUSTRY NEWS
GamingMalta has assisted in everything the industry required during these turbulent times, from repatriation flights for its personnel to the setting up of a dedicated COVID-19 helpline. It was also on the frontlines when it came to the donation of 12,500 high-quality surgical masks by the gaming industry to local medical personnel.
“In view of the success in the vaccination programme, thanks to the excellent work carried out by local health authorities resulting in Malta being the first EU member state to reach herd immunity, now we can come together yet again to maintain the industry’s growth and momentum,” the Minister says, adding “a growth which is brought about through the Government’s own endorsement in supporting this industry as well as strengthening existing talent and skills. For us, stating that Malta is the home of gaming excellence is not a mere slogan, but a firm affirmation and clear end-goal in all our efforts.”
And even more recently, GamingMalta launched a COVID-19 vaccination initiative for industry personnel. This ongoing initiative was part of the overall goal towards reaching herd immunity. Yet this did not deviate the foundation from its routine efforts, such as industry growth and nurturing.
Here, the foundation places two central notions at the top of its agenda: education and talent. GamingMalta identified at an early stage that education needs to be underpinned in all its efforts. To this end, it collaborates with institutions such as the European Gaming Institute of Malta (EGIM) on its dedicated iGaming courses at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) and similarly with the University of Malta’s Institute of Digital Games (ranked in the Princeton Review Global Top 25 list to study Digital Games). Education is also essential to future-proofing the local talent pool to meet the industry’s talent wants and needs. With over 700 iGaming jobs up for grabs on the Why iGaming jobs portal, a project supported by the foundation, and the skills gap issue reported by the MGA, the need for talent is a reality and needs to be addressed accordingly.
Ivan Filletti, Chief Operations Officer at GamingMalta, also affirms the close collaboration between the two entities and the gaming industry at large. “If the COVID-19 pandemic has proved anything, it’s definitely the dynamic nature of the gaming industry. Not only were relatively new concepts such as remote working initiatives quickly adapted, but the industry is already in motion to enter the post-COVID-19 era in full swing. Our strategic efforts, thanks also to the close collaboration of Government and notably the Ministry for the Economy and Industry and the gaming industry at large, have paid off. We will remain the industry’s main contact point, and we are keen to see our upcoming projects come to fruition in the second part of 2021.” www.gamingmalta.org
Hon. Silvio Schembri, Minister for the Economy and Industry
Though iGaming remains Malta’s largest gaming vertical, amounting to circa 13 per cent of local GDP, the Maltese Government has also set out an agenda for two other verticals: video gaming and Esports. The vision, whilst ambitious, is clear: to have these industries reach 1 per cent of local GDP by the year 2030, creating 2,500 jobs in the process. GamingMalta embraced this vision and set out on various initiatives, such as the partnership with ESL, the world’s largest Esports organisation. This partnership meant GamingMalta was the host partner of the three major CS:GO Pro League Tournaments (held online due to the COVID-19 travelling restrictions) with record viewership. Spearheaded by Minister Silvio Schembri, the Ministry for the Economy and Industry works closely with GamingMalta in all its efforts. In Mr Schembri’s own words, “GamingMalta sustains our efforts in promoting and nurturing the local gaming industry. Recent times have proved tough, but I commend the industry’s determination and resilience, and I firmly believe that we have been the shoulder the industry needed, promptly assisting and delivering.”
SUMMER 2021 INDUSTRY NEWS
TALKIN G TO T HE
O N THE IR TE RM S
Enteractive’s latest CRM innovation is a mobile-first, player-facing app.
ith big tournaments like the UEFA European Championship, it’s crucial for operators to have a direct dialogue with players to encourage the (re)activation of accounts, but until now, a missed call became a missed opportunity. Our new Engager service, for our operator partners, is a player-facing mobile app which gives players options for how our teams should connect with them – they can schedule a call-back, call us directly, or use live chat if that’s what they prefer. It makes converting these player segments much more effective by offering more choice to the players.
players, is the single biggest reason we support our native-speaking call agents with proprietary technology that streamlines the whole experience. That’s true personalisation, and it pays dividends in terms of player loyalty and brand warmth.
UEFA EURO TOURNAMENT
Now is the time to be communicating directly with the players, particularly new ones. The Euro tournament is a golden opportunity to win new fans and customers, and show them how much you appreciate them. Players love a bit of footie banter, and this delayed major football tournament is like the second coming for football fans across Europe.
The answering rates are why Engager is important. Spain has an answer rate of just 17 per cent, indicating that they might not have time for the call, so it’s better for them to use the Engager app to schedule a new call at a time that is convenient for them. With New Zealand, the answering rate is lower still at 12 per cent, while in Hungary, the answer rate is a solid 46 per cent, meaning they’re more likely to pick up.
Interestingly, we notice that pick-up rates and call times can differ depending on which markets we’re calling. For example, Italians rarely call back when they have a missed call, according to our data, not even 2 per cent. On the other hand, with Austrians, 12 per cent will hit ‘call back’, showing a huge discrepancy between countries.
Understanding these differences and optimising our approach, for the specific benefit of the
Generally, we see a broad spread in the average call times – three minutes for Canadians, and four
SUMMER 2021 INDUSTRY NEWS
“PERSONALISATION HAS BECOME A KEYWORD FOR ENGAGING WITH CUSTOMERS, NOT JUST IN THE IGAMING SECTOR, BUT ACROSS GLOBAL CONSUMER MARKETS.”
developing relationships with the players, rather than automating the B2C marketing processes. We should approach the players on their terms, not when it suits us.
minutes for Hungarians, on average. A four-minute average means that some people might talk for 10 minutes, others for two minutes, making a fourminute average a long time, which shows that these players really enjoy the conversation. Over the last decade, the area of player engagement and CRM has seen many developments, with technology providing a dataled digital approach. But what comes next will be a true evolution of player engagement, as we replace digital personalisation with real human interaction. It’s an approach that some don’t think is easy or even possible, but we’ve been doing it for more than 10 years with increasing, year-on-year success and with constant improvements through our investment in back-end technology innovation, to help manage and automate connections in our human-oriented engagement ecosystem.
SCALABLE SERVICES FOR THE US MARKET
Both Millennials (72 per cent) and Gen Zs (64 per cent) think that brands should provide a more personalised experience, and since these two groups will make up 52 per cent of consumers by 2027, it’s important that we adapt now as an industry to ensure we don’t lose touch with them.
TURNING CHURN INTO RETURN
Reactivating churned players can have a big impact on operators’ profit and loss, bringing back a sizable percentage of lapsed players, emphasising the need to have a solid strategy to reduce customer attrition in the here and now. The longer operators wait, the more players will churn and move to other brands, increasing their market share and making the competition stronger. So, when you’re watching a big tournament, think about your players, and focus for a moment on what they love about it. The shared experience of sport, the two-way chat, the excitement, the winners, the losers, the cheering, the human interaction. Don’t just send an email – improve your whole engagement strategy.
Now, as we expand our scalable services to supply our award-winning retention services to the US market, we’ve added even more technology to give the players a choice in how they engage with us. Our Engager player app enables both live chat and call-back functionality, meaning if the player is busy, they don’t miss out on the opportunity – they just let us know when it’s more convenient to have a conversation. Research shows that 68 per cent of players will leave a brand if they feel under-appreciated, while 51 per cent of players feel more loved when we call them for a personal chat. That’s why ‘personalisation’ has become a keyword for engaging with customers, not just in the iGaming sector, but across global consumer markets. These figures show we should be spending more time
SUMMER 2021 KNOW
Malta in numbers
514,564 GMT +1 (Until end 2019) INTERNATIONAL DIALLING CODE
AVERAGE YEARLY TEMPERATURE
MALTA’S ECONOMY GDP PROJECTION FOR 2021
per cent by end 2020 GOVERNMENT DEBT
GROWTH IN INVESTMENT FOR 2021 PROJECTED TO
million increase from January to April 2021 over same period in 2020
7.5 per cent
ANNUAL RATE OF INFLATION
per cent in 2021
GAMING IN NUMBERS GROSS VALUE ADDED GENERATED BY THE GAMING INDUSTRY TO THE MALTESE ECONOMY DURING THE FIRST HALF OF 2020
ESTIMATED NUMBER OF NEW ACTIVE PLAYER ACCOUNTS DURING THE PERIOD JANUARY TO JUNE 2020
iGAMING COMPANIES IN OPERATION
reflecting a 12.3 per cent year-on-year growth
Sources: Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), National Statistics Office (NSO), Central Bank of Malta, European Commission
as of end June 2020
SUMMER 2021 EXPATS
easy ‘It is very to live in
Swapping the lush forests of her native Sweden for the Mediterranean waters of the Maltese islands four and a half years ago, Deputy Chief Operations Officer at LeoVegas Group, Hanna Lerenius, talks Sarah Micallef through her reasons for moving, and why she stayed.
Still, it’s not the first foreign country Hanna has called home. The Swede has spent time living in Austria and Germany before landing in Malta. Describing herself as “a downhill skiing and gymnastics fanatic”, Hanna is mother to one-and-a-half-year-old Alma, and lists “ice-cream and proper Italian cappuccinos” among her loves. In Sweden, she worked in management consulting, primarily for industrial companies, and while she describes it as a great experience, affirms, “going online and digital has been the best decision of my career.” >
Photos by Inigo Taylor
or Hanna Lerenius, Deputy Chief Operations Officer (COO) at LeoVegas Group, her relationship with the Maltese islands began just over four years ago, as a result of another, altogether more personal one. “It may sound cheesy, but I came here for love,” she says, explaining that her then boyfriend – now husband – took up a position in Malta and after a while, she decided to move here too.
SUMMER 2021 EXPATS
“MY FAVOURITE THING [ABOUT THE GAMING INDUSTRY] IS THE FAST PACE AND CONSTANT CHANGE. YOU QUITE SIMPLY NEVER GET BORED.”
SUMMER 2021 EXPATS
“I LOVE THE FACT THAT EVEN MY SWEDISH FRIENDS HERE ON THE ISLAND HAVE ADOPTED THE MEDITERRANEAN MINDSET OF NOT PLANNING TOO MUCH AHEAD AND INSTEAD ALLOWING FOR SPONTANEITY.”
Her move into the gaming industry coincided with her relocation to Malta. Joining as Expansion Manager in 2017, she quickly moved through the ranks at LeoVegas Group to become Director of Business Development in 2019, until she was appointed Deputy Chief Operating Officer last year. Asked what she likes most about the industry, it comes as no surprise that Hanna emphasises its fast-paced nature. “My favourite thing is the fast pace and constant change. You quite simply never get bored,” she smiles. As for what keeps the Deputy COO going to work every morning with a smile, Hanna credits her “fantastic and driven colleagues at LeoVegas, the fact that our company culture is strong and aligned to my personal values, and the blue skies meeting my eyes pretty much every morning as I open the curtains.” Hanna says that despite missing the lush green forests of her mother country, one of the best things about living on the island is the Mediterranean Sea, affirming that “having it so close by and accessible is nothing short of fantastic.” She also mentions the caring nature of the Maltese people, revealing, “I really appreciate the care and consideration from random Maltese people who I met while I was pregnant with my daughter. Everyone, from taxi drivers and waitresses to neighbours and doctors, showed such serene happiness for me – I think it is amazing.” >
SUMMER 2021 EXPATS
“THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IS SOMETHING MALTA SHOULD BE VERY PROUD OF!”
This also extends to the Mediterranean lifestyle, which, Hanna says, is infectious. “I love the fact that even my Swedish friends here on the island have adopted the Mediterranean mindset of not planning too much ahead and instead allowing for spontaneity. It is quite simply very easy to live in Malta.”
Movie: Not a movie, but Game of Thrones. Restaurant: Taproom. It is a classic. Thing to order at a bar: Gin and Tonic or Aperol Spritz. Do I have to choose? Place for a weekend getaway: Abroad, it’s London. In Malta, one of the cosy boutique hotels in Valletta. Artist: The Killers Maltese word: Bongu. It has such as positive ring to it. Sport: Gymnastics and skiing. Again, do I have to choose?
That is not to say that she – like all of us – doesn’t have pet peeves about it. Picking up on an interesting quirk of the island and the Maltese, Hanna’s biggest annoyance is “that so few people take a step to the side when walking towards each other on the narrow pavements – I find it so annoying!” Still, it’s clear that for Hanna, the good outweighs the bad, and this is reflected in the way she chooses to spend her free time on the island. Citing a love for swimming, going on hikes and late evening summer dinners in Valletta, she highlights the capital city as her favourite location in Malta, gushing that “there is something so magical about the narrow streets and old buildings.” Finally, an unexpectedly positive element that came with relocating to Malta, according to Hanna, was the discovery of the island’s healthcare system, which she has high praise for. “The thing that most pleasantly surprised me is the very high quality and accessibility of the healthcare system,” she maintains, adding that “the healthcare system is something Malta should be very proud of!”
SUMMER 2021 CALENDAR
iGaming Calendar Never miss an appointment! Here are some of the most important iGaming events, trade shows and conferences happening worldwide and online over the next few months. AUGUST 2021 THURSDAY 5TH
Sportsbetting West Africa Lagos, Nigeria
iGaming Academy: Online Sportsbook Management Virtual
Australasian Gaming Expo
ICC Sydney, Darling Harbour, Australia
iGaming Academy: Online Sportsbook Management Virtual Australasian Gaming Expo
iGaming Academy: Online Casino Management Virtual
Gaming Expo Francophone Africa Casablanca, Morocco
San Francisco, USA
TUESDAY 6THWEDNESDAY 7TH
Emperors Palace, Johannesburg, South Africa
All-American Sports Betting Summit 2020
EGR B2B Awards 2021
Hybrid – Virtual & York Lawns, London, UK
iGaming Academy: Award in iGaming Virtual
iGaming Academy: Introduction to iGaming Virtual
iGaming Academy: Introduction to iGaming iGaming Academy: Introduction to iGaming GAME (Gaming & Affiliate Marketing Expo) 2021 Athens, Greece
SBC Digital Italia Virtual
CasinoBeats Summit 2021 (CBS2021) InterContinental Malta, Malta
Summer iGaming Week Intercontinental Malta, Malta
The Digital Marketing Mixer
SUMMER 2021 CALENDAR
iGaming Calendar Fantasy eSports Summit
SEPTEMBER 2021 THURSDAY 2ND
Ukrainian Gaming Week 2021
Fantasy eSports Summit
Scandinavian Gaming Show Stockholm, Sweden
European Gaming Q3 Meetup Virtual
SBC Summit Barcelona
CEEGC Budapest and CEEG Awards (Hybrid – Live + Virtual)
iGB Affiliate Amsterdam
EGR Power 50 Summit 2021
EGR Power Affiliates Summit 2021 Marbella, Spain
iGaming Academy: Business Analytics Virtual
iGB Live! 2021 Amsterdam, Netherlands
EGR US Power Summit 2021 California, USA
Global Gaming Expo (G2E)
OCTOBER 2021 MONDAY 4TH
Cyprus Gaming Show Nicosia, Cyprus
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) Las Vegas, USA
iGaming Central America San Jose, Costa Rica
iGaming NEXT 2021 Malta
EGR Italy Awards 2021 Rome, Italy
SBC Summit Latinoamérica (#SBCSlatam) Cancùn, Mexico Source: www.igamingcalendar.com
SUMMER 2021 COACH
T E LL T H E M
As a C-level executive with over 20 years’ experience, Marion Gamel knows the effort required for businesses and leaders to engage with their audiences in a successful and memorable manner. She started her career as an entrepreneur before working for Google, Eventbrite and Betsson Group. Marion has been coaching entrepreneurs, founders and C-executives around the world since 2015. In this regular column, she delves into the importance of storytelling in business and how it could help leaders drive change in their workforce. 0104
s we settle into the new-normal, and many companies continue to encourage their workforce to work remotely for an undefined period of time, we’re starting to realise the limitations of digital relationships. I read that 70 per cent of our communication is non-verbal. 70 per cent is the (big!) chunk of content that we’ve lost through video conferencing, online forums and emails. It is not such a huge issue when people know each other well – as the missing information on video conferencing is complemented with what they already know about each other – but it’s a considerable issue when leaders address new audiences, be it internal with new employees, or external.
SUMMER 2021 COACH
“AS WE EXPERIENCE ‘ZOOMFATIGUE’, THERE IS A WAY FOR LEADERS TO OVERCOME THE LIMITATIONS OF DIGITAL COMMUNICATION: TELL A STORY!” Storytelling is powerful, but how to go about it in a corporate environment? Good news – pretty much every message could be turned into a story. The next logical question is: which storytelling model to choose? Indeed, there are so many!
How can leaders make their message more noticeable, engaging and memorable amidst ‘Zoom-fatigue’? Two years ago, leaders were on stage. They were trained about their voice and eye contact, what to do with their arms, and how to work the stage. None of this training is really useful anymore, as leaders find themselves limited to a small rectangle on their audiences’ screens.
I was looking for a storytelling structure that can be personalised to the leaders’ own style, customised to the actual situation being described, and palatable to different audiences. I may have found this gem! One of the most powerful storytelling models available to tell a compelling story is The Intentional Change Model, developed by Boyatzis and Goleman. It is a coaching >
COULD STORYTELLING BE THE SOLUTION? From an early age, we love stories and use them to understand complex moral concepts such as loyalty, courage and integrity. We use the same skills to understand real people and situations as we do to relate to fictional characters in stories. While we often forget numbers, strategies or quotes, we never forget a good story! I have been using storytelling for years with leaders I coach to help them drive change among their workforce. Since the start of the confinement, I found myself talking about storytelling more and more with leaders I coach, way beyond the topic of change management. Could storytelling be the vaccine against confinement side effects: isolation, disengagement, confusion and shorter memory span?
SUMMER 2021 COACH
structure that executive coaches often use to help a leader adopt an aspirational and positive mindset to tackle a challenge. The Intentional Change Model comprises five chapters and, adapted to a corporate context, it goes like this:
4 REALITY Inspired from The International Change Model, developed by Boyatzis and Goleman
Step 1: The ideal situation You start with the end: your vision of success. If this were a children’s story, you’d start with “They get married and have lots of children”. Starting with the happy ending invites your audience to lean in, because they find it aspirational. You start with the bit they want to get to, the part that makes them feel good and worth working for. From the first 20 per cent of your story, you have the audience thinking “We want that!”. So often, strategies start with ‘the problem’. Starting with a successful ending can be much more exciting. Step 2: Today’s reality This is where you talk about where you stand today, your context, including what’s working and what’s not. Now’s the time to go through your SWOT analysis. Although you don’t need to ‘rate’ where you stand versus your goal (step 1) or how far or close you are to it, it will be a natural conclusion of your audience. To make this step more uplifting and engaging, it’s a good place to list your strengths – your knowhow, reputation, talent, innovation, last year’s wins, company culture and whatever makes you feel like you are well equipped to reach the end goal. Step 3: The journey In this chapter, you discuss the essential ingredients or steps to bridge today’s reality with the ideal situation. If the ideal situation described in step 1 is the ‘objective’, then this chapter lists the ‘key results’. These items can be listed chronologically (what needs to happen, in which sequence), or by theme – talent, technology, growth and innovation. It is important to avoid the ‘laundry list’ effect and to focus on the few but indispensable steps required to reach the ideal situation.
RESOURCES Step 4: Innovation You have probably heard how Einstein described madness: “To do the same thing again and again, hoping for a different outcome every time”. This fourth step is based on this belief. Here, you list things that need to be tried for the first time. This step is about giving psychological safety to your workforce to take risks and to fail, as long as learnings are extracted and built upon. Step 5: Resources This final step is all about ending on a positive. “You’re not alone! You’re empowered! The company is behind you and wants you to succeed!”. Here you list all the resources people can tap into to go from reality to the ideal situation: people, knowhow, budget, headcount, training, coaching, or a new leadership team. If you use this storytelling model to request additional support, this is where you list what you need in order to execute your plan. Another advantage of The Intentional Change Model storytelling structure is that it enables you to cover three very important facets of your strategy: why, what and how. WHY The ideal situation and the real situation cover the WHY. This is why we do what we do, to delight the customer, change lives, become number one, be global, influence and educate. WHAT The third step describing the ingredients required to reach the ideal situation covers the WHAT – this is what needs to happen so we fulfill our raison d’etre. HOW Step 4 (experimentation) and Step 5 (resources) cover the HOW. This is how all this can happen, in terms of mindset and feasibility. The more leaders use this storytelling model, the more they adapt it to their style and fluently alter it to fit the requirements of their audiences. A story is easily remembered, which means that it can carry through the organisation, being repeated by all hierarchical layers. As we experience ‘Zoom-fatigue’, there is a way for leaders to overcome the limitations of digital communication: tell a story! Using storytelling is an impactful way to address new internal and external audiences so the message is understood, appreciated and remembered. Try it!
Got a question for Marion? Email her on firstname.lastname@example.org
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Pushing the limits O F O UTSTAN D IN G O F F I C E D E SIG N
As it gears up to welcome its employees back to the office, Betsson Group has wasted no time to ensure that its Ta’ Xbiex office meets and exceeds the expectations of its Betssonites. Martina Said catches up with the team responsible for its refurbishment to find out what went into it.
ith its idyllic location overlooking the scenic Ta’ Xbiex marina, the Betsson Experience Centre – the main office of Betsson Group – has long been a landmark in the area. The imposing, eight-storey building is impossible to miss, as is the bustling activity of socalled Betssonites entering and exiting it with that typical camaraderie seen among close colleagues and friends. Indeed, the Betsson office is more than just a building to anyone who works there – it’s an extension of the company’s culture and a means of identifying with the company’s values and philosophy, making the recent renovation works all the more exciting for employees starting to return to base after a prolonged period of working from home. With a prominent presence in Ta’ Xbiex since 2013 – including eight floors in the main building and three floors in the adjacent building – Betsson has since expanded with another office at the E2 hub, housed within the Dragonara Business Centre in St Julian’s, in October 2016. What began as an office on three floors soon became four when Betsson Group acquired RaceBets International Gaming Ltd in December 2016, and with further renting space for future growth. In all, Betsson occupies a staggering 15 floors in two office locations and employs around 1,200 people.
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“AT THE END OF THE DAY, WE WANT OUR BETSSONITES TO ENJOY COMING TO WORK, AND THE WORKPLACE SETTING IS A BIG PART OF THE EXPERIENCE.”
Gerd Bergh, Head of Employee Experience, and Asia Palka, Reception Team Lead and acting Facilities Manager at Betsson Group, stress the importance of the office for anyone who works with the company, spurring it to upgrade some of its facilities over the past year. “Our office environment is an essential part of the employee experience, the look and feel of the workplace play an important part of our daily life at Betsson. It supports productivity, employee satisfaction
Photos by Sergio Morana
Gerd Bergh, Head of Employee Experience, and Asia Palka, Reception Team Lead and acting Facilities Manager, Betsson Group
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and our workday energy,” they explain. “At the end of the day, we want our Betssonites to enjoy coming to work, and the workplace setting is a big part of the experience.” As a company operating within such a fast-paced industry, Gerd and Asia explain that Betsson Group felt the need for a refresh to its premises, to keep up with the latest trends, both from an aesthetic and a functional perspective. “In our headquarters in Ta’ Xbiex, the reception, café, as well as the recreational area on the eighth floor are where the biggest changes were made, giving them a totally new look and feel. And our base in St Julian’s is up for a facelift as well, where we’ve recently started refurbishment works too.”
Upon entering the building, staff and visitors are welcomed into an impressive double-height entrance, embellished with colourful elements ranging from blue armchairs and grey sofas decked out with orange cushions, to a stunning reception area accentuated by wooden slats. Nearby, the quirky café is the perfect place for a pit-stop, cleverly incorporating iGaming elements, Betsson’s many awards and achievements, and a laid-back design, making it a great spot for catching up with colleagues. Expanding on the re-designed floors, Stephanie Bason, Director and Architect at Base Architecture – the firm
responsible for carrying out the works – explains her thought process behind the refurbishment. “Times have changed, and so has the traditional office set-up. As a result, we proposed a design concept that would cater to those needs while focusing on creating a more industry-oriented space with a bit of an urban twist.” Stephanie adds that, over the years, Base Architecture has been fortunate enough to work hand-in-hand with the main stakeholders at Betsson Group. “This has resulted in the inception of what we like to call the ‘Betsson Building Brand’, a concept that encapsulates a quality standard and recognisable aesthetic vital for the global alignment of all Betsson Group offices.”
This approach encompasses a variety of elements – one being the use of company colours repeated throughout all spaces and accentuated via furniture and soft furnishings. “The second element refers to the incorporation of company branding and industry orientation in the form of signage and playful décor relating to the iGaming field, while the third element consists of carefully selected materials and finishes, such as light timber and brick cladding reminiscent of Betsson Group’s Scandinavian roots,” the architect explains. “In conjunction, the implementation of these features has allowed us to build the recognisable ‘Betsson Building Brand’, which we have successfully incorporated in several of their offices globally.” On the eighth floor, Betsson’s recreational space, the design approach was completely different to that adopted for the reception area and café. Instantly striking is the widespread use of greenery on the floors, ceilings and walls, as well as eye-catching neon signs and fun design details, such as a large pink flamingo sitting atop a car. Stephanie explains that, when designing an office of this kind, the goal is always to create an inspiring yet functional space with the end user in mind. “In this case, for us to really focus on employee well-being, it was imperative to create a retreat where anyone can run off to for a much-needed break in the midst of a busy work-day.” “Plants have been scientifically proven to lower stress levels while promoting mindfulness and productivity, when weaved throughout buildings and communities,”
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she explains. “Located within a rather urban area, we felt the Betsson Group office lacked a natural feel, so the implementation of the greenery was a no-brainer in achieving this result.” Over the past year and a half, ever since the start of the pandemic and the subsequent mass migration of most employees from the office to a remote set-up, the future of the office space as we know it has been called into question. Will it retain its value among employees who might have become comfortable with working from home? Is it still worth investing in a high-spec office set-up? Indeed, just last month, Betsson announced its new ‘Hybrid WFH’ model, which allows employees the freedom to work both remotely and from the office. Additionally, the company announced that employees will be able to work remotely from abroad for two weeks per year – a particularly attractive option for expats who wish to visit home for a stretch of time. Given these perks, will the office retain its value among Betssonites?
“Yes, for sure!” say Gerd and Asia. “The ‘Hybrid WFH’ model, as we at Betsson call it, will really offer the best of two worlds and accommodate what many of our employees want: more freedom and flexibility.” “We will have two days in the office, and then we can work three days remotely if we wish to, offering the benefits of working from home while having the opportunity to meet up with our colleagues in real life for creative meetings, lunches and after-work get-togethers,” they explain. “We really believe that having the chance to meet up in our attractive offices will mean a lot to our Betssonites and will continue to strengthen the already fantastic Betsson culture.” Sharing what they believe to be the most outstanding elements of the newly renovated areas, Gerd and Asia consider the openness and playfulness of the spaces to be up there on the list of their many attractive qualities – “It’s a cool design, but at the same time, it’s warm and inviting.” For the architect, choosing a favourite is somewhat trickier. “Upon entering the office, one of the most eye-catching features is the double-height entrance. On the left-hand side, the prominent reception desk stands majestically in-front of a multi-screen media wall highlighted by the timber slats that surround it, while the security desk on the right sits below an intricate structure housing a series of proudly displayed trophies and awards,” says Stephanie.
“Although rather noteworthy, I wouldn’t say this is our favourite aspect at Base Architecture. Instead, the recreational area on the eighth floor is what we consider the most outstanding, particularly due to the thought and detail that went into this space,” she explains. “Having a large enough floor plate to work with, the concept was based on introducing a mini-village that would really push the limit on the work-life balance approach. So, we designed a series of commodities typically found in a little town, including a restaurant-like kitchen with an adjoining lounge, a ‘street’ with its one and only car, a diner with an arcade, a park with a ‘beer garden’ dining space, as well as a fully-fledged pub with its very own beer on tap!”
“THE CONCEPT [OF THE RECREATIONAL AREA] WAS BASED ON INTRODUCING A MINI-VILLAGE” Stephanie Bason, Director and Architect, Base Architecture
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Despite a rocky start to the year, iGaming companies managed to bring their teams together for uplifting social activities, whether in person or not. These are some of the events that have taken place over the past months. ENTERACTIVE Player retention and reactivation company, Enteractive, hosted the Enteractive iGaming Padel League Finals on Friday 11th June at Padel Malta in Pembroke. Players from a number of iGaming companies participated in the friendly competitive event. The Division One winning team was Betpoint Group, made up of Karl Wijkmark and Kalle Haraldsen. Following the success of Enteractive’s tournament, a new Padel league for the iGaming community will start in September.
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LEO VEGAS GROUP 1. World Pet Day: On Monday 4th October 2020, LeoVegas Group employees celebrated World Pet Day by sharing photos with their pets. Throughout October, they donated necessities to two local animal sanctuaries, the Association for Abandoned Animals and the CSAF (Carers for Stray and Abandoned Felines). 2. YMCA donation: In December, the company visited YMCA Malta at one of their homes, Dar Nikki Cassar. Since YMCA Malta is an NGO largely run by volunteers who offer a spectrum of social work services to underprivileged or socially disadvantaged individuals, LeoVegas Group donated office equipment, laptops for residents to communicate with their loved ones, food and plenty of Christmas gifts for all the kids. 1
3. Winter Digital Summit 2021: In January, LeoVegas Group organised its first digital summit named Kings and Queens as a way for the global team to get together, during which a number of discussions, awards and fun competitions were held.
4. Valentine’s Day: On Valentine’s Day, LeoVegas Group together with CareMalta Group Ltd sent over 380 red roses to the staff and residents of two care homes, Roseville and Villa Messina.
5. Autism Awareness: During Autism Awareness month in April, LeoVegas Group collaborated with Inspire Foundation Malta to install new calming corners at their premises, which provide a safe space that allow children who are overstimulated to calm down and regain control of their emotions and regulate their sensory input.
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BLEXR In May, Blexr organised an online cooking session with nutritionist Stephanie Tanti Desjardins, who runs Eat & Fuel nutrition and lifestyle coaching. Highlighting the importance of the health and well-being of its people, the team at Blexr was given a step-by-step breakdown on how to prepare a delicious vegetarian tagine. It was a fun way for the team to cook together, get a sneak peek at each other’s kitchens and enjoy a tasty meal afterwards.
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HERO GAMING 1. Company update: Hero Gaming hosted one of its regular all-hands meetings to keep the team updated on its latest developments and to discuss the company’s plans, operations, achievements, and challenges. This not only boosted engagement but also instilled a great sense of purpose, commitment, and passion that enhanced both employee and customer experiences.
2. CSR: To commemorate seven years in Malta and to celebrate 2021 World Earth Day, the Hero Gaming Foundation partnered with QuickLets and Zanzi Homes (QLZH) Foundation to plant 700 indigenous trees – a symbolic number for the company, representing 100 trees for every year it has been operating in Malta. 4 2
3. CSR Walk: For one of its wellness challenges, Hero Gaming joined a virtual Cystic Fibrosis fundraising event, which was organised to raise awareness for an under-researched yet common illness. The more steps made by the team, the more Hero Gaming donated to the cause. 4. Eighth anniversary of its first game, Casino Heroes: The company celebrated the start of code development for Casino Heroes, the first seed for Hero Gaming, as well as those team members who have been a part of the company since the early days. 5. Hero Wellness App: Hero Gaming launched a Hero Wellness App, which encourages its members to be more mindful about living a healthier lifestyle. The company’s plan to deliver a holistic wellness programme targeting physical, mental, financial, and social well-being, both on an individual level and also through team challenges via this new platform, is at the heart of the company’s people strategy. 6. Virtual cooking class: Despite the social distancing challenges posed by the pandemic, the team enjoyed several virtual events throughout the year, a recent one being a virtual cooking class that brought the team together to prepare a lovely meal and a few cocktails, whilst improving their culinary skills.