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Network News • 08-02-2024

Igaming in Malta hosts giants like Flutter

Author: George Mangion - Senior Partner at PKF Malta
Published on Business Today: 8th February 2024



Remote gaming in Malta started as a whim in 2002, under the auspices of the old-style Lotto department, then still faithfully turning the 90 lotto number wheel. It was a bold step taken by the PN government to venture into the unknown obscure remote-gaming, specifically when bandwidth was limited and was then owned exclusively by MaltaCom, a state monopoly.

Banks were shy and scared stiff of online gaming with bankers wanting to court it but stayed aloof not being familiar with its risks. The new kid on the block grew slowly in the early years, while yours truly was a pioneer writer about its fortunes in business media extolling its potential.

There was a taboo about the sector and most newspaper editors were cautious not to be closely supporting it. My editor used to tell me an article once a month on the subject was the limit. I took particular interest in the relatively unknown sector and in 2003 travelled to Australia to register in Malta the first sport book company then a listed company based in Northern Territory (Darwin) at a time when Australian politicians at the hustings were keen to wean off its popularity among gamblers. Lawmakers threatened to ban it completely via a moratorium hence I saw an opportunity for an igaming license in Malta.

There is no looking back, now that the industry has matured during the twenty-year interlude. It has grown into one of Malta’s most important economic contributors. It generates rich fees for professionals in ancillary services such as web hosting, security auditing, players protection, AML awareness, specialist tax advice, HR recruiting and legal work.

Malta, in essence, serves as the European backbone of the industry, attracting the largest gaming operators and suppliers, as well as some of the hottest start-ups. More live sports are going digital, both internationally and locally. This is going to create new and broad opportunities for sponsorship and integrations that exceed the current model available on traditional linear broadcasting.

Observers describe this as a largely unexplored area that could continue to grow the market for live, in-play betting. Artificial Intelligence will continue to make a name for itself in the coming year.

AI-powered technologies have created opportunities for operators like DraftKings. Machine-learning algorithms allow sportsbooks to create a better customer service experience, to operate more efficiently, and could even help aid responsible gaming programs.

Responsible Gaming, as sports-betting legislation continues to pass, will see more emphasis placed on responsible gaming initiatives from all sports-betting operators. While this is a primary focus for everyone, many believe that the industry will come together, establishing the US as the gold standard in responsible gaming.

This year DraftKings joined forces with Kindbridge to support self-excluded customers in Colorado by providing complimentary resources on responsible gaming, as well as launching our State Council Funding Program. To no one's surprise, the ranking of top sportsbooks is still the same. FanDuel and DraftKings lead the market in the US. Plenty of shakeups went down this year in the ranks below them.

FanDuel operates a horseracing and betting-focused TV channel, FanDuel TV, which it rebranded from TVG and broadcasts races in the US. It also launched a streaming network, FanDuel TV+.  It is interesting to note that FanDuel shall continue to lean into and build its media prowess to engage its 4 million average monthly players in the US.

Flutter group now operates an impressive bunch of gambling brands, including Paddy Power and Betfair in Europe, PokerStars, and Sportsbet in Australia. Flutter, the Irish gambling giant, began trading its shares on the New York Stock Exchange recently, bringing the US's largest sports-betting operator to Wall Street investors.

CEO Peter Jackson plans to shift its primary listing to New York away from London as this will get people to look at the business differently. One significant benefit of listing on the NYSE is the natural draw of investors looking to pump cash in the next big thing.

People know Flutter as the parent company of FanDuel, but it also owns brands which are equally famous in many markets around the world. It operates an impressive number of gambling brands as stated earlier. It is no surprise that shares of Flutter, which began previously started trading based on their price on the London Stock Exchange, popped 3.4% during intraday trading on their first day of US listing. Flutter is also registered in St Julians Malta, and is very keen to expand local operations.

It's a great opportunity to bring the world's leading sports betting and gaming business to Malta branded by MGA as the world's leading capital market for remote gaming. Experts argue that while there are funds that have the ability to direct a portion of their investment outside of the core investment area, Flutter now being listed on the NYSE will without doubt open the doors to more potential investors.

Flutter’s International arm, covering markets outside the US, UK and Ireland and Australia, also reported rich pickings as revenue jumped 36% year-on-year to £2.29 bn, with sports betting revenue up 60% CC and gaming 29%. Flutter’s subsidiary FanDuel is the No. 1 US online-sports-betting operator by gross gaming revenue, according to data on the 12 months ending in November quoting research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.  The sportsbook has dominated the US market, alongside rival DraftKings, as a legal sports betting has expanded US nationwide.

While some people may view the US market as unique, in many ways it’s the same story being played out that individual State regulations may change. This has featured in the past as waves of prohibition have happened many times in US states.

The next question that we need to tackle is what’s next for the Igaming sector in Malta? Will banks become more friendly towards the industry? Should this occur, Malta can capitalize on the millions in commissions paid overseas to credit card processors and intermediate fees paid to crypto clearances and international credit institutions. As the saying goes - fortune favours the brave - and I augur that the next paradigm shift will surprise us all during the post-Covid recovery with AI and AR blazoning the trail.


Author: George Mangion - Senior Partner at PKF Malta

Published on Business Today: 8th February 2024




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