Gambling Operators Mull over Their Future in Gibraltar in Light of Brexit
British territories are facing a lot of confusion now that that Article 50 has been triggered in light of the Brexit referendum outcome. A large number of bookmakers have their remote gambling operations on the territory of Gibraltar. They are now saying that they refuse to get involved in the highly charged atmosphere surrounding the territory following the political developments.
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory and headland that is situated on the south coast of Spain. It shares its northern border with Spain and is home to around 30,000 people, who are both Gibraltarian and hail from various nations.
The row was sparked after the EU released their negotiating guidelines last week. The document basically said that no Brexit agreement between the EU and UK would be applicable to Gibraltar without an agreement between the UK and Spain first.
Former Conservative leader, Lord Howard, who also happens to be the former Chairman for the Arena Racing Company, said that the current government would defend Gibraltar as Margaret Thatcher had defended the Falklands. This was most likely when troubles began.
The gambling industry in Gibraltar is a large one. They are estimated to employ around 3,000 people. There is also approximately another 1,000 individuals who are indirectly dependent on the gambling sector of Gibraltar for employment. Many of these people live on the Spanish side of the border. The final outcome of the Brexit negotiations could therefore greatly affect their situation.
The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association represents the territory’s gambling industry. None of their representatives were available to comment on the matter.
However, the Director of Communication at William Hill Plc., Ciaran O’Brien, said that the overstatements have become a little more exaggerated than expected. Nonetheless, they will continue to monitor the situation as both parties get ready to enter into negotiations.
He said, “I think the hyperbole has got a bit out of hand and when things go into proper negotiations it will be handled sensitively on both sides, but obviously it’s something we continue to monitor.”
The Director of Media at Ladbrokes Plc., David Williams, issued a short statement. He said that he expected business to carry on as normal.
William said, “We’ve had operations in Gibraltar for many years and look forward to sustaining that presence for many more years to come.”
There have been theories surrounding the possible collapse of the gambling industry in the area for a while. One senior figure from the Gibraltar industry said that demise of the gambling sector in Gibraltar has been speculated for a number of years. Yet, he continued, “each and every hurdle has been overcome”.
He did however acknowledge that this time the issue is bigger than the ones that the region has had to deal with in the past.
He added, “Brexit, and the potential border issue with Spain in particular, is as big a challenge as any.”
While there is still time before the UK leaves the EU, the border issue with Spain could become a factor long before that. Tighter checks are set to be introduced from as early as Friday, the 6th of April 2017. This measure is being taken due to an amendment that was made to the Schengen Border Code.
Neither Gibraltar nor the UK are not a part of the Schengen Agreement. This agreement allows free movement across borders in much of the EU countries. However, Spain is part of the agreement. Therefore from next Friday, the Spanish authorities must conduct checks on all people driving and walking to and from Gibraltar.