The Malta iGaming Seminar (MiGS) 2016 has officially begun, an event focused on high level issues affecting senior management in the online gambling industry. While the majority of MiGS attendees are based in Malta, we’re also accompanied by professionals from around Europe and beyond here at the Hilton in Portomaso.
Now in its eighth year, this two-day event provides a series of sessions, networking breaks and other social events such as last night’s MiGS welcome drinks, day one post-conference drinks, iGaming Idol, Club 22 after party, winding down drinks and the official MiGS closing down party.
Today’s “Keeping up with the Digital Economy in Changing Times” panel featured Manfred Galdes of PwC, Corinne Valletta of the MGA and Dr. Sarah Aquilina, Freelance VAT Consultant. Issues covered during the session included everything from the EU anti-money laundering directive to VAT implications to adoption of crypto-currencies.
Valletta said there are two main initiatives she is working on at the MGA, first being “administrative cooperative arrangement”, a voluntary process for exchanging information and best practices amongst regulators in the EU. This exchange of information is quite a big step in the eyes of Valletta, also an initiative that has been “extremely successful”, she said.
Second on the list is a request for standardization in technical requirements, something the MGA will have more news on in 2017. Valletta also mentioned the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive and how the MGA is preparing and educating their licensees for the directive once it goes into effect.
Crypto-currencies are another area of great interest for the MGA but Valletta said progress has been slow because there needs to be more education on the technology. She also pointed out how crypto-currencies impact much more than just the gaming industry in Malta, therefore the process of approval will take longer. She confirmed the MGA is taking steps to “kick start” the conversations surrounding crypto-currencies and is hopeful we’ll start seeing some significant movement in Malta by 2017.
The “Virtual Currencies and Blockchain” session featured Dr. Andreas Garner of MME Legal AG, Anatoliy Knyazec of Exante and Benedikt Manigold of Cubits. Knyazec kicked things off by providing an overview of currencies and how Bitcoin fits in. He covered the misconception of how Bitcoin mostly facilitates criminal activity and agreed that yes, criminals may use Bitcoin, but they also use other technology such as cars, emails, computers… “any of the latest technology they will use”, he said.
Manigold explained why he believes Bitcoin is the best and most stable of the crypto-currencies out there, hence his choice to build Bitcoin into the Cubits technology.
He said Bitcoin has the best infrastructure, comes with a lot of publicity and commented on its user-friendly nature. He also pointed out how exchanges are now becoming regulated and receiving licenses, more steps bringing Bitcoin further into the mainstream and contributing to a more positive reputation.
Manigold predicted within the next two years we’ll see Bitcoin reach a stability level similar to that of fiat currencies.
Garner walked us through Blockchain technology and compared it to an excel spreadsheet, saying its a piece of software at the end of the day. He said Blockchain has become a “big buzzword” and “everyone wants to be part of it, but people don’t really understand it yet”.
Industries and people are starting to find ways to use Blockchain technology for marketing purposes, Garner said, for example train ticketing machines accepting Bitcoin even though most people don’t even use ticketing machines anymore. “Its more a marketing strategy”, he said.
The panel also covered how Blockchain technology can be useful for the online gambling industry in the form of “smart contracts” with automated payments, therefore reducing costs for operators while also guaranteeing trust.
MiGS 2016 is also home to a number of booths, mostly suppliers to the online gambling industry who are based in Malta. We spoke with exhibitor Ivan Saliba of Blaze Animation, a small company dedicated to creating bespoke games and/or visual effects for film and television with a focus on gaming.
Saliba went on to describe the time and care his team puts into each project, creating every animation series from scratch and always delivering on execution promises. He explained the benefits of having a small team like his, including a more personalized touch and ease of flexibility.
Kyte Consulting Ltd is another MiGS 2016 exhibitor and Alan Alden of Kyte told CalvinAyre.com he’s participated in MiGS every year since its inception. He confirmed the event brings together all the right people under the same roof and had nothing but positive comments to share.
Kyte Consultants specialize in risk management services with an objective of assisting companies heavily involved with information and communication technologies such as gaming. As Kyte is a Maltese entity, their management and team are experts in Malta’s gaming regulations in addition to the guidelines and directives issues by the MGA.
Alden and his team are celebrating their 10th anniversary of being in business this year and choose MiGS 2016 as the venue to treat the gaming industry to a champagne reception, the perfect opportunity to make some new connections while also having fun.