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Isle Of Man Appoints E-Gaming Ambassador

by Jason Gorringe, Tax-News.com, London

18 September 2003


The Isle of Man's Department of Trade and Industry has appointed director for Rank Interactive Gaming, John Gilmore, as an 'e-gaming ambassador'. His role will be to arrest the decline in the island's e-gaming industry and attempt to woo back the high profile firms who have quit the jurisdiction in recent months.

In 2001, the Isle of Man opened its arms to online casinos with the creation of a new licence to regulate the industry, and the island subsequently attracted some high profile names, including Littlewoods, MGM Mirage and SunOnline (whose Casino Atlantis online was later bought by Kerzner International). However, the five firms that were initially granted licences have now dwindled to just one, Littlewoods, and over-regulation has been cited as a major reason for the exodus.

"This industry is still at a formative stage, it will continue to change and so the battle is by no means lost," assured Mr Gilmore in an IoM Online report. "Perhaps a slight relaxation in the anti-money laundering code" is necessary, he continued, adding it is "almost impossible" to launder money through an online casino.

A lack of access to the potentially lucrative US market (where online gambling is currently illegal) was another important factor that hampered the growth of the fledgling industry. "That was one of the negatives for the five licensees that came here. We all thought that by 2004 at the latest we would all be enjoying US customers," said Gilmore. "But they (US authorities) decided they would make it illegal; which is not a bad thing because making it illegal is the first step to making it legal. So the companies that were here that were depending on the US market — like Kerzner and MGM — have decided to mothball their (online) businesses until such time as the Americans say they can play, whereas others like Rank move to another jurisdiction."

Gilmore also raised doubts over the need for licence holders to put up a £2 million bond which he called somewhat "excessive".

"Something like £500,000 would be more realistic and acceptable to more people … blue-chip companies like Rank and MGM are not going to run away," says Gilmore.

"From my initial discussions with many individuals in both the public and private sectors, I believe there is a recognition that changes are needed to make the Island's e-gaming environment more competitive internationally," observed Mr Gilmore, predicting that it is not impossible to reverse the trend.

However, Gilmore warns that plans to liberalise gaming regulations in the UK could provide the island with some serious competition in the future. "If they were to do what they say they are going to do they would be huge competition for the Isle of Man. The changes that they are talking about would allow people to play from America."


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