How would you describe the recent performance of Malta’s iGaming industry?
Our iGaming sector has performed exceptionally well. Malta has seen licensed operators reach record numbers, and we can proudly say that now most of the sector’s major companies have operations on the island. Malta today offers the complete gaming ecosystem. We have the resources, the people and the culture to give iGaming professionals and entrepreneurs the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals. In 2018, we launched our new Gaming Act, which further cemented our position as the world’s iGaming capital. It has eliminated unnecessary bureaucracy, simplified the licensing process, and more importantly, speeded up time-to-market for operators. It has also paved the way for the further enhancement of best-in-class player protection standards and responsible gaming measures.
Malta is getting serious about esports. Can you tell us more about your strategy?
Esports has steadily grown in popularity over the years, giving rise to a booming industry. We are currently working on a strategy to form a cluster of esports companies and attract large-scale esports events to the island. We want to attract not just competitive games, but also videogame designers and become a destination for digital media companies.
Malta is being coined the “Blockchain Island”, what can you tell us about this development?
Our three DLT laws came into effect in November 2018, providing a holistic regulatory framework within the blockchain and cryptocurrency space. The newly established Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA) will certify DLT platforms and smart contracts, while handling the voluntary registration of technology service providers. The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) has been tasked with the supervision of ICOs, virtual financial assets and cryptocurrency exchanges. Both have started to receive licence applications from companies. We see more and more companies moving into Malta, joining those that have already set up on the island such as Binance, OKEx, DQR, Bittrex, Neufund and ChilliZ.
What’s next on your agenda?
Now that the blockchain related laws are in effect, and our vision of making Malta “The Blockchain Island” is becoming a reality, we can start looking at other innovative areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), quantum technology and big data. We are working on developing a regulatory framework for AI, and in the coming months, a national strategy will be launched for this sector to explore the opportunities it holds, attract new investment and incorporate it into our ecosystem. We have set-up a task force made up of entrepreneurs, academics and experts in the field, who will devise a holistic approach towards the industry. We know that AI is already playing an important role in the gaming industry. Our main focus will be on how to position AI to drive our economy, and intersecting it with other industries and technologies such as blockchain, telecoms and gaming.
What are your plans to further strengthen the infrastructure and ecosystem that Digital Malta requires?
Malta has long been sensitive towards connectivity and digitalization, which have transformed our country and brought about new opportunities, quality jobs and growth. 5G is now becoming a reality in Malta, and is the next step towards enhancing our digital infrastructure. Malta has to be at the forefront of this technology, which is an enabler for innovative applications, new business models and investment. We are not resting on our laurels and are partnering with international companies. We are also offering red carpet treatment to companies – both big and small – wanting to set up in Malta to grow our digital ecosystem. But we know that it is equally important to attract talent to the island. Our economy is nearing full employment, and we are aware that, at times, firms find it difficult to source the right talent. Attracting foreign talent will remain one of our key priorities, and we want to make sure that onboarding new professionals is as uncomplicated as possible.
How do you expect Malta to develop in the coming years?
Our aim is that the entire digital economy will flourish in Malta. In terms of gaming, I believe that the initiatives we have taken, including our new gaming law, will help us maintain and strengthen our position as the number one gaming jurisdiction. But we must continue challenge ourselves and keep innovating if we want to retain the top spot. We will continue building on the ecosystem, and this also includes cryptocurrencies and blockchain. The plan is that DLT will account for 10% of GDP by 2027. We want Malta to become a powerhouse of economic innovation. The AI sector is expected to underpin US$15.7 trillion of global economic growth by 2030. The opportunity is too big to be missed. This is why Artificial Intelligence and a best in class regulatory framework are high on our agenda. Establishing a regulatory framework for AI is expected to impact every economic sector in Malta, transforming current job roles, as well as creating many new ones.
Photo Credits (Silvio Schembri, Junior Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister): Reuben Piscopo