The Gibraltar gambling industry has concerns about the border with Spain in the event of a Brexit no deal, despite it’s long term planning of a worst case scenario.
Some of the largest names in the industry are based in Gibraltar which employs over 3,000 individuals in the land, 60% of whom are’ border workers,’ employees of any ethnicity living in Spain who travel to work in Gibraltar on a regular basis.
With no deal looking ever more probable, there are fears that after October 31 these employees will be subjected to lengthy delays in their daily commute.
“Plainly there is now more focus and some angst around ‘no-deal’ planning and what that means at an individual level. Most operators have already planned on a worst-case scenario basis,” said Andrew Lyman, the executive director of the Gibraltar government’s gambling division.
“While the gambling industry, like many other service industries, was generally hoping for the withdrawal of Article 50 or for a managed exit, business planning has generally taken place on a worst case scenario. The industry can deal with IT structures and EU licensing issues, but the border remains a concern,” he continued.
Lyman said that the chance of closing the border with Spain was remote, pointing out that it would be an infringement of EU law, but that more friction at the border was “a possibility,” with the prospect of passports being “wet stamped.”
He added: “Gibraltar is not in the customs union and existing customs procedures are already in place. There has been encouraging political contact with Spain and, while things will be different and there will be teething problems, the issues are not considered to be insurmountable.”
Chief executive of gambling group Rank, John O’Reilly who has previously held high-profile roles at both Ladbrokes and Coral and a board position at William Hill, agreed there were concerns for the Gibraltar industry about the border.
“For EU nationals who travel across the border to work in Gibraltar, the challenge is whether that is still going to be okay for everybody from November 1 onwards,” he said.
“The assumption is that it will be and I know the Gibraltar government is doing everything it possibly can to ensure Gibraltar is unaffected after October 31 in the event of a no-deal Brexit. That is what we’re hoping is the case.
“I hope logic and common sense prevails. Gibraltar is important to the economy of that area of southern Spain so it doesn’t help anybody, not least the local community, if there are problems crossing the border.”
A number of operators have already implemented plans to ensure EU access after Brexit, with numerous offices in Malta being established. Among them are bet365, who said their Gibraltar workforce would be lowered from around 500 to 100 staff.
A spokesperson said: “As previously stated, it was our intention to maintain a presence in Gibraltar and, subsequent to our previous announcement, we have had constructive ongoing discussions with the government of Gibraltar.
“Following very positive discussions with the chief minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo, the minister for gambling Albert Isola, and the gambling regulator we are to maintain our dual regulatory and licensing strategy position between Gibraltar and Malta and can confirm we will be maintaining a licensing and operational presence in Gibraltar.
“This will include retaining around 100 people in our Gibraltar offices. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the government of Gibraltar and the gambling regulator.”
GVC Holdings, Coral and Ladbrokes ‘ parent company, said in its latest interim findings that it would be registering portion of its online business under a Maltese online gambling license before the 31 October Brexit deadline and that some of its servers had also been moved to Dublin in June.
However, it added: “The group’s online business will still be headquartered in Gibraltar and the impact on our employees in Gibraltar is minimal.”
Lyman said Gibraltar was the only jurisdiction so far with guaranteed access to the UK gambling market after Brexit.
“Our expressed view is that it would be inadvisable for operators to think they had any guarantees about being able to serve the UK from an EU27 jurisdiction,” he said.
Adding: “The border remains an issue, particularly for Spanish right-wing parties, but it is hoped that economic sense will prevail. The industry has deep roots in Gibraltar and is welcome here – that counts for a lot at a corporate and individual level.”