Online Gambling Company 888 Holdings to Possibly Leave Gibraltar

In iGaming by on May 3, 2017

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Online gambling operator, 888 Holdings Plc. has hinted that they might relocate its headquarters from Gibraltar to Malta. The question of a hasty relocation is being considered due to uncertainty issues surrounding Gibraltar’s future following Brexit.

Brexit Referendum

The “once in a generation” United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, designed to determine the support of the public regarding Britain’s membership in the European Union was nicknamed “Brexit.” The referendum saw more than 33 million people express their opinion through a vote on the 23rd of June 2016 in the UK and Gibraltar. The vote to “leave” won by a small margin of 51.9 per cent of the votes, while the vote to “remain” received rest of the 48.1 per cent of votes.

Almost everyone expected the “remain” vote to be the victorious outcome. However, the shocking turn of events left many bookmakers out of pocket, and others with some problematic post Brexit decisions.

Gibraltar and 888 Holdings Plc.

Gibraltar has been the home for 888 Holdings Plc. for a long time. This is where they established their gambling empire. It was at this rock that they put together the building blocks to create a major European online gambling hub. However, last month 888 became the first operator to hint on their emigration plans. The cause for such drastic measures is none other than the outcome of the Brexit referendum.

Britain has assured that full consideration will be given to Gibraltar’s interests. This assurance came about last week and the sentiment was echoed by Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo.

Picardo was certainly more optimistic about Gibraltar’s future than many of its businesses. He is certain that it will continue to remain a home for the gambling operator amongst many others. 888 Holdings however is not as confident that they will continue with their business from the peninsula.

888 Holdings most likely to move to Malta

In an annual report that was published earlier last month in mid- April, 888 Holdings has signalled their intent to move towards Malta. The company went on to state that it will continue to have a presence, albeit to a lesser degree on ‘The Rock’.

The company would ideally like to move to Malta because the movement of people, goods, services and capital with other EU member states is free and much more painless.

The report further went on to state that “The proposed status of Gibraltar in relation to the United Kingdom as a result of ‘Brexit’ is at present unclear. If 888 were to remain registered, licensed and operating in Gibraltar in these circumstances, its ability to rely on EU freedom of services/establishment principles in supplying its services within the EU will be limited.”

888 Holdings is heavily reliant on EU principles when it comes to strategic decisions in major EU markets. An exit for Gibraltar from the EU would render them unable to control or mitigate political changes of this nature. Therefore, under these circumstances, the company would have to reconsider the appropriateness of remaining registered, licenced and operational in Gibraltar for the future.

The report also suggested that Malta would be considered the most suitable alternative for relocation purposes.

Future of Gibraltar Post-Brexit

To put things into perspective, residents of Gibraltar were heavily in favour of remaining within the EU. Already a member of the EU by virtue of its status as a British territory, 94 per cent of those that went out to cast their vote last summer, were in favour of staying in the European Union.

The online gambling industry is Gibraltar’s largest employer, accounting for around 25 per cent of its GDP. But because of its size, the vast majority of its workforce lives across the border in Spain. Much of the territory’s ability to continue to exist as a major jurisdiction will lie in Spain’s willingness to permit some degree of cross- border movement.

‘The Rock’ has what can be described as a chequered past. It has been the subject of a hostile sovereignty disputes between Britain and Spain for a long time. The territory was taken over by Britain from Spain in 1713.

Spain has been fairly accommodating under such testing circumstances. It has even suggested a shared sovereignty approach post- Brexit. Under that approach, Gibraltar will continue to stay in the EU. However, this proposal has been rejected by the residents of Gibraltar. They identify as being British and are prepared to face the worst of consequences if Gibraltar ends up leaving the EU.

Despite the talk of relocation for 888 Holdings, there are still some companies who have pledged their allegiance towards the off- shore British territory.

Lottoland Ltd. is another company that has established a home in Gibraltar. The CEO of Lottoland Ltd., Nigel Birrell, has described the island as the ‘perfect base for [their] business’ and also went on to say that “[their] business is thriving and the benefits of staying in Gibraltar remain very strong indeed.”

888 Holdings Plc.

888 Holdings Plc. is an online gambling company that owns and operates several high-profile gambling websites. The company was founded by two Israeli entrepreneurs in 1997. At first, their administrative centre was established in Antigua but in 2003 it was moved to the island of Gibraltar. The company was listed on the London Stock Market in 2005, the same year talks surrounding the subject had emerged.

In March of 2007, 888 acquired the Bingo business of Globalcom Ltd. The following year, they saw a significant surge in profits. A large percentage of that was coming from their online casino sector.

The company operates under a gaming license granted by the government of Gibraltar. They own and operate a number of gambling sites, through their subsidiary, Cassava Enterprises.

888casino is one of their online gambling sites. It provides online casino games, in downloaded and web- based instant play versions. Their games can be played on personal computers and mobile devices.

888poker, their online poker room, was launched in July 2002. It focuses exclusively on different variants of poker and other card games. They also offer free to play versions of their games for their custimers.

888 Holdings owns and operates several different online bingo sites. They offer 90- ball and 75-ball bingo games for their players, along with online slot titles, progressive jackpots and scratch cards. Their bingo games run on a no download required basis and emphasise community spirit through their several chat rooms.

888 Sport, their sports betting brand, was launched in March 2008. The site offers both horse track betting and sports betting through the website. In addition, it also offers access to 888 Holdings’ other sites. Bets can be placed on sports leagues in other European and North American countries through these other sites. This includes live betting, in- game action, and pre-game bets. Racetrack betting focuses largely on UK race tracks. However, action on international racetracks are also always available.

Finally, 888games.com is their casual gaming site that hosts a variety of games in a non- download platform for their customers in Germany and the United Kingdom.

While 888 holdings once had a strong footing in the US market, on the 2nd of October 2006, they decided to suspend their US facing business indefinitely.