Updated 9.30pm: adds Gibraltar's minister statement
Bet365 – one of the world’s leading online gambling groups – has finalised plans to relocate its operations to Malta from Gibraltar as soon as the UK exits the European Union next year, The Sunday Times of Malta revealed.
The group, owned by a British family and according to its latest published accounts (2015) having had a revenue of €1.5 billion, is expected to relocate some 1,000 employees from its operations in Gibraltar, significantly boosting Malta’s economy and dependence on the online gambling industry.
The Sunday Times of Malta can also reveal that the owners of Bet365 have already signed a promise of sale agreement to acquire a large part of a new property development sprouting out on the Tigné peninsula in Sliema to serve as the company’s hub of operations.
The promise of sale will come into effect as soon as Brexit materialises, and the British company is expected to pay some €70 million to buy the Sliema property.
Sources close to the gambling industry told The Sunday Times of Malta that the relocation of Bet365 to Malta would be a game changer for the island, as it is expected to create a major economic boost.
“It is not every day that 1,000 well-paid employees are relocated to Malta. Apart from the fact that we are talking about the largest sports betting company in the world, with some 23 million customers, 1,000 new individuals and their families looking for a place to stay for quite some time on a small island will mean significant business,” the sources said.
It is not every day that 1,000 well-paid employees relocate to Malta
At the same time, the sources said that there will be a downside to this “massive relocation”, as rents for housing in the area have already started increasing drastically as rumours about the move make the rounds.”
“The problems of increasing congestion and overcrowding in the Tigné area will also continue to become a major problem”, the sources added.
Bet365 has been eyeing the possibility of relocating its major operations to Malta for quite some time, and this was made more likely following the UK’s Brexit referendum, in which the electorate chose to leave the EU.
Malta has become very attractive to online gambling companies due to its low taxation regime and its membership of the EU.
Already registering three companies in 2014, Hillside (New Media Malta) plc – the operating company of the Bet365 group – acquired a remote gaming licence from the Malta Gaming Authority in 2015.
At the time, the company said that this was due to “regulatory developments in various operating territories”.
Following the UK’s Brexit vote, Hillside registered a new property management company in Malta last year, increasing its paid share capital to €12.5 million to invest in the acquisition of the property in Sliema.
Last month the company finalised its plans to transfer part of its business to Malta and registered another company, Hillside (Shared Services Malta) Ltd.
Founded by Denise Coates in 2000 in Stoke-on-Trent, the company fast developed into a multimillion-euro operation with some 3,500 employees across the globe.
Apart from Gibraltar, it also operates a massive business in Australia and has a small office in Ta’ Xbiex in Malta.
The company chairman, Peter Coates, Denise Coates’s father, is also the chairman and owner of Stoke City Football Club, which this year was relegated from England’s Premier League to the Championship.
A lifelong supporter of the British Labour Party, Mr Coates is known as having donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the party.
One particularly large donation coincided with the relaxation of gambling legislation and the lifting of a ban on television advertising by the UK’s Labour government in 2008.
Gibraltar's Minister for Gambling statement
In a statement, the Gibraltar's Minister for Gambling Albert Isola said Gibraltar was confident there would be a positive outcome for Gibraltar companies as the Brexit negotiations progressed.
"We, nonetheless, understand that business needs certainty and has to manage risk. There is no single risk management solution here as the issues are complex."
Mr Isola said his government was working with operators and with other jurisdictions to establish the best overall regulatory framework for business.
"Bet365 have confirmed directly to us that they remain totally committed to Gibraltar and the entirety of it's workforce here. They are not leaving Gibraltar by any stretch of the imagination.
"Neither are they having to choose between us and Malta. What remains true is that Gibraltar remains the jurisdiction of choice for the most reputable gaming companies in the world. Brexit isn't going to change that," Mr Isola said.