“This is a hugely exciting industry and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us today,” so remarked Jon Tricker of KPMG Gibraltar, as the firm kicked off its sixth annual eSummit on the 21st April. More than 300 delegates and 40 keynote speakers from the world of eGaming & eBusiness attended the event held at the glittering oceanfront Sunborn Hotel. Combining a lively, interactive format with a packed agenda across three rooms, the summit covered a broad range of issues including M&A activity, new regulation, cybercrime, data analytics, AML, eMoney, HMRC’s VAT changes and Brexit. A fresh element of live polling came via a mobile app, enabling speakers to put topical questions to delegates and gain immediate results. Attendees also enjoyed the exclusive IMGL masterclasses, featuring eMoney, Regulatory Challenges, and Technology, Data & Products. The summit comes hot on the heels of KPMG’s shortlist nomination for the eGaming Review B2B awards, as finalists for the Corporate Service Provider category.

Opening the day’s proceedings was the Honorable Albert Isola of the Government of Gibraltar. Mr. Isola spoke of the recent publication of the jurisdiction’s Gambling Commission Review, underlining how the paper is a working document, and invited full contributions from industry stakeholders.  Mr. Isola provided an update on Gibraltar’s eGaming sector, which remains strong in the aftermath of the huge activity in mergers and acquisitions over the past year. Undoubtedly for Gibraltar, a dynamic partnership between the Gambling Commission and the gaming sector is fundamental.  Especially in light of recent developments such as the Panama papers and Brexit, the need for the jurisdiction to retain its philosophy of quality, reputation and regulation is essential, and in that spirit Gibraltar will move forward with its licensing.

In an informative session looking at the wave of M&A activity over the last 12 months, panelist Susan Breen of Mishcon de Reya commented how the rationale behind mergers were largely based on cost, complementary businesses scale and increasing the platform. This is mostly the case with the bigger deals, but, when looking ahead at the small to mid-market, mergers will likely take the form of more joint ventures, especially on the technology front, where there is huge growth. The panel also looked at the role of private equity funding in mergers, which has been steadily increasing as the eGaming industry becomes more mainstream. This trend will continue, and not just at the top end of larger deals, but with smaller firms too, as they realise there are strong returns to be made.

Providing an update on regulatory challenges facing the industry internationally, Paul Morris of the Remote Gambling Association examined the impact on operators, governments and consumers. In the EU, the move by operators to implement point of consumption licensing has resulted in a system which is quite similar to that in the US, where each state basically decides its own rules and companies must obtain multiple licenses to operate in multiple states. Whilst these reforms pose challenges, they also present opportunities, and open markets. Back in the UK, as one of the largest online gambling markets globally, the hot topic of self-exclusion came up with a look at a new scheme designed to further protect consumers, the National Online Self Exclusion Scheme (NOSES).  Touching on marketing, Mr. Morris considered the impact of the Industry Advertising Code launched in February. Far from seeing advertising as a negative, the code allows operators to be clear on their websites that they are fully licensed, and distinguishes them from black market operatives. Customers will derive confidence from this, according to Mr. Morris.

Led by David Zeffman of Olswang, a debate on the UK’s Horse Racing Levy produced an interesting result via the live polls. At the start of the session, delegates were asked to vote on whether the levy should be abolished. 42% replied “Yes”. By the end of the hour, that figure had gone up to 100%! An entertaining look at this oft-contended issue and persuasive work indeed on behalf of the speakers.

Speaking of the event, Micky Swindale of KPMG: “We are very fortunate to be able to attract outstanding expert speakers in their fields who present topics in a lively format, to a growing number of attendees. Our Gibraltar summit has evolved to meet the needs of an ever-changing market and this year has focused on the challenges of regulation, alternative payment methods and the impact of a potential Brexit. Emerging from this year’s summit were several key findings. Firstly, as an operator you need to prioritise your business to be customer-facing or you won’t survive in this industry. Secondly, to rise to the measures of regulation, there is a clear need for the industry to act as a collective in meeting some of those challenges. And lastly, what we’re likely to see in Gibraltar over the coming 2 years as key drivers of M&A activity, will be competitive scale and the symbiosis between government and enterprise.”

Jon Tricker of KPMG Gibraltar added: “It’s been a really enlightening day thanks to the stimulating programme on offer; I’ve been party to some lively debates on a wide variety of issues. From its inauguration in 2011, the eSummit has gone from strength to strength and is now considered to be one of the biggest occasions in the global eGaming calendar. It also comes at a time where KPMG’s leading expertise in the sector is being widely recognised, thanks in part to our shortlisting in the ‘Provider of Corporate Services’ category in the B2B awards by E-Gaming Review, and also to the recent news that both Micky Swindale and Abby Kimber are finalists in the ‘Women in Gaming’ Awards to be presented in London next month”