Wednesday, June 8 2011 : MP briefs parliament on the benefits and pitfalls of being an online gambling regulator
The Malta parliament discussed the island's involvement as a regulator in both land and online gambling this week, with Labour MP Alfred Sant warning that although regulatory activities had created both tax revenues and jobs, it was necessary to guard against adverse impacts on society.
Tax collected from casinos in 2009 amounted to Euro 9,595,440 while the income from commercial bingo in the same year reached Euro 642,220, Sant told parliament on Monday.
Speaking during the debate on a bill amending the Gaming Act, Sant said the industry had grown rapidly. The local market included land casinos, lotto and sports betting while the global market featured remote gaming. These resulted in great economic and social changes.
In 2009/2010, some 5,053 persons were employed in the industry, with 3,178 of these jobs related to remote gaming, Sant revealed.
Referring to the European Commission's Green Paper on internet gambling, Sant pointed out that to date, there was still no EU political control on the industry and member states had their own regulations set on certain established parameters.
According to the Green Paper, he said, the industry in Europe was estimated to be worth Euro 6.2 billion in 2008, a sum that was expected to double by 2013.
It was calculated that the local expenditure on remote gaming in Malta amounted to Euro 5 million, he said. Internet gaming on the island was divided 76 percent online casino betting; 16 percent internet poker betting and seven percent online sport betting.
Sant said that according to the EC paper, among all EU member states, Malta had the highest contribution from internet gaming.
In 2008, this amounted to 7.82 percent of the GDP. In 2009, the IMF had calculated that remote gaming amounted to between eight and nine percent of the island's GDP, Sant said, pointing out that the Finance Minister had denied this at the time, yet the Green Paper was now reconfirming such claims.
This was a considerable proportion of the GDP and it was wrong not to recognise it, the politician asserted.
Although it was good that this sector was faring well, it was important to note that there had been a rapid change that was focusing the economy on one sector, and this was not healthy. Countries like Ireland, Iceland and the UK had shown that it was detrimental when only one sector dominated the economy. Measures had to be taken to combat this imbalance, suggested Sant.
He claimed that international gaming was not having a trickle-down effect to generate more work in other sectors. Although the economy seemed to be growing, this was masking the fact that the self-employed and those in the manufacturing industry had less income.
Malta had to be at the forefront and ensure that the regulation of the online gambling sector was serious and honest. There should be a distinction between the regulatory and promotional aspects of the industry and these should be controlled by different agencies, Dr. Sant said.