Thanks to its foresight in spotting the potential of iGaming early doors, Malta has been at the heart of the global online gambling industry for over two decades. However, in recent years, the geographical balance of the industry has begun to shift significantly, as more countries seek to regulate online casinos and sportsbooks through their own regional licences.
In fact, the rise of regional regulation is having a huge impact on the value of the MGA licence, which no longer guarantees operators the widespread market reach it once had. Now more than ever before, operators are forced to evaluate which licences and regulated markets are of most value to their business interests and growth in the long run. This is also influencing their decision on where to base their operations.
Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany are among the countries that have already introduced tougher licensing requirements for iGaming brands to operate within their respective markets. With additional licences come additional licensing fees, which can put a heavy strain on an operator’s budget. In light of these regulatory shifts, more European gaming companies are venturing beyond the continent towards untapped markets that provide lower operational costs, less stringent regulation and new player bases.
As more legislators across North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia are warming towards regulating online gambling operations, the iGaming industry is experiencing unprecedented growth and change. Many established companies are now looking to take advantage of the great potential these emerging international territories offer.
These factors are also impacting demand for talent, and several new recruitment trends have emerged in the wake of this increasingly global industry. Of particular note is how demand for junior, tech and commercial roles is being reflected in the ongoing development of newer iGaming markets.
Increased regulation in Scandinavia and Germany aside, Europe still holds a ton of promise and potential. The last few years have seen emerging markets such as Estonia and Bulgaria put themselves firmly on the iGaming map. The Bulgarian market alone is currently on course to break past €550m ($587m) in the next five years.
Now that Bulgaria and Estonia have established a solid infrastructure for their respective iGaming industries, with many operators armed with expert teams backed by market-specific experience, demand is currently high for entry-level roles as companies strive to expand their operations further.
In particular, Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, has turned into a real iGaming hotspot in recent years, with many candidates continuing to show great interest in relocating here to break into the industry. Customer support, data analyst and affiliate coordinator roles are just some of the most in-demand junior positions in Sofia in recent months.
Conversely, there has been great demand for candidates with senior-level experience in the United States. Since 2018, states across the US have been steadily adopting total legality of online gambling practices. More and more European-based companies are now looking to capitalise on the huge potential of the US market. This has created a surge of interest in candidates with US experience, resulting in highly competitive salaries for the right senior and C-level talent. The US market is estimated to be worth $5bn and is forecast to surpass $15bn by 2025.
Tech roles have also been in high demand of late, especially among companies based in Portugal, Spain, London, Ireland and France. Outside of Europe, iGaming companies based in Costa Rica and New Jersey (USA) have also stepped up their efforts to recruit for tech-related roles.
The evolution of the iGaming industry is intrinsically reliant on technological innovations. And, of late, there has been a huge push among operators to incorporate newer technologies, such as virtual reality and mobile gaming platforms, into their products to help them reach new audiences and stand out from their competitors. However, the demand for such high-level technological expertise outweighs the talent currently available. This is why many companies are offering experienced tech candidates highly attractive salary and benefits packages that usually include remote working possibilities.
In fact, plenty of iGaming companies have proven keen to take advantage of the possibilities of remote working while they set up shop in new territories. This has certainly been the case with tech and commercial roles. Because operators are looking to enter new jurisdictions and geographical locations quickly and efficiently, many are offering remote opportunities to the right talent who can help fast track their company’s foothold within these new markets while they better establish physical premises.
The remote trend has continued among iGaming operators in Asia, which has been the progenitor of a new trend – that of the crypto casino. The jury remains out on whether blockchain and crypto betting platforms will gain widespread traction.As yet, there have been no noteworthy success stories that indicate players are ready to move in that direction. However, if a breakthrough were to happen, it would certainly come from within the Asian market, which has seen a rapid expansion of crypto casinos since the start of the pandemic. As a matter of fact, in March of 2022, news broke that an effort is underway in Malaysia to allow Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to take their place alongside fiat as legal tender on online gambling platforms.
As crypto casinos continue to gather steam across Asia, the industry is expecting to see a greater demand for candidates with the skills and vision to combine crypto, and online casino games, into seamless products that appeal to today’s crypto-savvy consumers.
With more operators looking towards Asia, LatAm, the US and emerging territories in Europe, the following decade is set to irreversibly transform the iGaming industry. The question in the local sector is increasingly: Will Malta still have a role to play on the international iGaming stage?
The answer is not so simple. In the short term, locally based recruitment professionals are still seeing plenty of interest from candidates wanting to relocate to and work in Malta’s renowned iGaming hub, especially among junior-level talent. However, the hard truth is that more and more candidates are increasingly looking at iGaming opportunities abroad. More will need to be done if Malta wants to compete with the likes of the US and Asia going forward, especially in terms of the cost of living and quality of life on offer. The local iGaming industry has become an integral part of Malta’s reputation and economy. After all the great success and acclaim the island has enjoyed within the industry over the past 20 years, it would be a shame if the powers that be fail to see the shape of things to come; and let Malta’s industry-leading status slip away for good.