A responsible “iGaming” company is one that chooses to not be in business.
What is permissible is not always honourable – Cicero
It is impossible to live in Malta if you’re involved in the software industry and not constantly run into the online betting or gaming companies – or people who work for them. A rough estimate based on LinkedIn puts almost half of my Maltese connections (those working in software) on the payroll at a gaming company. Of my ex-colleagues and students who’ve chosen an entrepreneurial path, a large number have started companies that service the gaming industry.
To say this is disappointing to me is an understatement.
Of all the industries Malta could have become associated with “iGaming” is possibly one of the worst. The clue is in the fact that it is an industry that requires a “responsible gaming foundation” to educate and protect users from the perils of gaming. A business whose core product or service means that its users run the risk of irresponsible spending, addiction, and bankruptcy is unethical. An industry that lends itself to money-laundering practices becomes complicit in cocaine trafficking and the associated widespread harm that “industry” in turn generates.
Of course its not illegal to run or work for a gaming company. Just like its not illegal to operate or work for a physical casino. Just like its not illegal to operate or work for a tobacco company or a strip club.
But every time I see a LinkedIn notification that so-and-so is now working for OnlineSimpleBet Group a part of me dies inside.
I just wish Malta hadn’t gone down this road. Apart from the ethical side of things, these kind of industries are fickle. These companies and entrepreneurs only came here because the environment (tax, finance, and legal setup) was made hospitable for them. Once the environment turns sour (eg by attracting the attention of Mafia and other investigators) all it takes is for another jurisdiction to offer slightly better or “safer” conditions and the “gaming economy” will disappear in the space of a few years. Leaving behind a host of ex-employees skilled only in non-transferable gaming-related practices and with nowhere to transfer them to in any case.
We have many talented developers, entrepreneurs, and designers and we could have just as easily made it possible for them to work in a hi-tech or startup environment that is focused on a more ethical, and ultimately more long-lasting, industry.