No. A direct answer, but those who know me will know I am a fairly direct person. Of course there are issues within the sector, it is a maturing, highly regulated space and there are always challenges to be faced in such sectors, but I suggest it only takes a glance at sites such as Manx Forums to realise how many individuals choose to have a negative opinion on topics they know very little about.
In truth the key metrics to measure the sector are all positive on the Island, year on year contribution to GDP is up, employment is up and the pipeline of new operators is strong. Within the last 6 weeks alone ILS has been fully engaged by two new operators and we expect more to follow shortly.
The number of licensees remains fairly stagnant, but it is important to remember that operators are still locating here, with most of those exiting being failing businesses. This is no reflection on the regulation, businesses will fail. It is just a fact of the commercial world; not all can survive in a competitive market. What is a reflection of the regulation is that, unlike numerous high profile cases in Malta and other 'leading' jurisdictions, players of Isle of Man licensed operators have their funds repaid, even when the licensee is wound-up. We also need to remember that we do not want every operator we can get. We need a manageable number to avoid the issues so many other jurisdictions face. All the quality regulation in the world cannot protect the reputation of a jurisdiction if there is not the manpower to enforce it.
Currently we have a mature, skilled, highly efficient regulatory body which is the envy of other jurisdictions. In the eGaming world, the Isle of Man badge means something. It means fairness, integrity and security. The eGaming arm of the Department of Economic Development, now led by Mark Robson, has rightly taken the considered position that quality is key and quantity is unnecessary risk. Our licensees know they keep good company and their reputations are not at risk from nefarious operators tarnishing the Isle of Man, and by association, their good names.
What business ILS, the DED, and a small number of others bring in together today, will have positive repercussions on employment and GDP tomorrow.
I have heard grumbles from within the CSP sector regarding the state of the eGaming sector on the Island, but those not signing business will always have a negative view of the industry. Those few with the history, connections, experience and expertise to get results; understand the issues the Island faces, but we work with the government to find solutions. We also look at new markets and elements of the sector that we can help to develop on the Island, rather than believe that because operators now require a UK licence to access the UK market, eGaming on the Island is dead. This is just simply not true, but it is up to us as a collective to find solutions to fit clients' needs.
As with any business, the Island needs to constantly reinvent itself, especially in such difficult and competitive times. This means researching, strategising and implementing. This process takes time. We cannot 'just do' anything. The Island has done incredibly well in difficult circumstances over the last few years. Credit should go to our politicians and their advisors for their balanced approach towards high, medium and low risk strategies mixed to achieve maximum economic benefit. There have been some issues, of course as there are so many decisions to be made, we cannot get all of them right and overall this Island of ours, with just 87,000 residents, holds its own in the company of international heavyweights.
It is true that the eGaming industry is in the throes of an ever changing international regulatory landscape (which some point to as a cause for the industry's demise, despite the empirical data to the contrary), but we are still executing new business. We should recognise the threats but these threats have in some instances given the Island numerous opportunities that have arisen from the general uncertainty and is reacting diligently to capitalise on them.
The eGaming industry has grown and supported the Isle of Man, as well as the Isle of Man being a supportive environment for the operators that call our Island home. As a jurisdiction we need to continue to diversify and reinvent ourselves, including within the eGaming sector itself, whilst also realizing the positives in what we have and react quickly to external threats to minimise impact to our operators. We have a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship that should not be underestimated, dismissed or misunderstood.
Is eGaming dead? No, but we need to work hard to maintain and grow the sector.
For more information on ILS World's eGaming services please contact Lee Hills.