Malta's economy boosted by online gambling

Parliamentary questions highlight some positive statistics

A parliamentary exchange between Malta's finance minister and Labour MP Alfred Sant this week highlighted the significant contribution which remote gambling regulation has made to the Mediterranean island's economy.

Sant took finance minister Tonio Fenech to task for not satisfactorily responding to his request for detailed information on the contribution to the local economy made by Malta's online gambling activities, the Times of Malta reported. Fenech had declined his request on grounds of confidentiality, Sant claimed, despite the fact that he had publicly revealed statistics on various occasions.

By way of example, Sant pointed out that the government had provided "reams of analytical information" in the Economic Survey on sectors that employed relatively few workers, and then refrained from analysing the online gambling sector which employed 5 200 people on the island.

Sant said a glance at published historical information indicated the importance the online gambling sector was assuming in the Maltese economy.

In 2007 the government revenue from gaming had amounted to Euro 32.5 million and in 2008, this had increased to Euro 37.2 million, Sant claimed. There were estimates of GBP 43.4 million for 2009 and Euro 46 million for 2010, he added. However, this data did not differentiate between taxes from local gambling and revenue from online or remote gaming - a sector which was not permitted to offer its services to Maltese citizens resident in Malta.

Dismissing the minister's claim to confidentiality, Sant pointed out that if this was the case, the minister had himself broken "confidentiality" in March when he had addressed the World Gambling Briefing 2010 on the island.

After telling delegates how favourable Malta was to remote gaming operations, the finance minister had informed them that 350 licenses for online gaming had been issued; some 600 applications had been received; Malta had 250 internet gaming operators and the gaming industry employed 5 200, of whom 3 400 were employed directly by the remote gaming sector.

Furthermore, the Economic Survey had divulged that the category of other community, social and personal services (which included remote gambling activities) had been on a steep upward trend in recent years, Sant revealed. During the nine-month period between January and September 2009 it had increased by Euro 23.6 million to Euro 357.3 million.

This category had been increasing its share in regard to total market services employment, recording an increase of 1 438 jobs or 23.1 percent to 7 650. But the information in the publication did not separate figures into distinct categories, and those pertaining to gambling were grouped with other sectors and therefore obscured.

Sant also referred to the 2009 IMF reports on Malta which had produced a graph showing that between 2006 and 2008, the community, social and personal services sector had contributed between 50 and 60 percent to the Gross Domestic Product. During 2008 the sector had contributed 10 percent to the GDP in export services - more than double that of the financial services industry on the island.

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