Eman Pulis from SIGMA - staying ahead of turbulent times

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GamCrowd is pleased to be working with the Summit of iGaming Malta or SiGMA conference taking place on the island between the 16-19 November as part of GamCrowds studio initiative where startups can access opinions and pointers from our community of experts to help them navigate the complexities of starting a business in the gambling industry. We will be working alongside conference organizer Eman Pulis to look at eight newly launched companies, including the Pitch ICE winner 2015 Gamevy, Betters Rift, Skillcorner, Aquibix, Nextwin, Sportsbook Cloud, InboundMuse and Sporticos. GamCrowd will be looking into these companies in turn ahead of the event, but for now we are presenting this Q&A with Eman which talks about his hopes for the show and why Malta is attracting attention as a hub for online gambling start-ups right now.

GamCrowd: Why do you think Malta is a good base for iGaming start-ups? What does the island bring in terms of resources?
Eman Pulis:
Malta’s resounding success as an online gaming hub is attributed to a number of factors, pertinent of which include EU membership, and the free movement of goods and services that comes with it. Malta has also an advantageous tax regime. Not only are foreign companies taxed 5% based on a tax rebate scheme, but high net worth individuals, C-level executives, are taxed a relatively low 15% on their personal income. The development of the gaming industry in Malta has also accelerated the development of related services – data centers, real estate, catering and hospitality, telephony and others. All these advantages have been made possible thanks to a stable history of banking and financial services, backed by EU directives and regulations, including all pre-emptive measures against money laundering. Furthermore, the two major political forces appear to be towing the same line. A stable political climate means that the above laws and regulations are unlikely to change, whichever party is in government. With the newly proposed Gaming Act, the MGA is repositioning itself strategically in the gaming world in order to sustain the current industry demands and provide for new streams of growth. A new legislative framework is being rolled out, one that reduced the burden of multiple licenses and simplifies the process, maintaining accountability at all times. Online gaming today is characterized by new developments, including games of skill, fantasy sport, esport as well as emerging disruptive technology such as virtual reality. The regulator in Malta seems adamant on establishing a regulatory framework that is flexible enough to cater for this permeability of change, while minimizing the risks. This should minimize the compliance and approval processes as well as cut unnecessary application costs. Malta has exempted fantasy sports games operators based in Malta from the requirement of obtaining a remote gaming license to operate. This legal notice was issued on August 1 and this welcome change entitles operators to provide their services following a straightforward notification to the MGA, without the need to go through a lengthy licensing process. Such initiatives are set to put Malta as the preferred destination for fantasy sport and related games of skill – the winning must be the result of a player’s knowledge or skill. The results? You get giants like Draft Kings are eyeing Malta in the foreseeable future.

GamCrowd: What is the aim of the start-up element of the show?
Eman Pulis:
For the first time in Malta, we are introducing the SiGMA Start-up Pitch, bringing together eight good startups and several investors under one roof. With so many investors wanting to join the gaming scene in Malta as well as worldwide startups, there’s never been a better time to launch this session. Each startup will have six minutes to present their project, then face a session of Q&A with the investors and the audience in a Dragon’s Den-like environment.

GamCrowd: What do you hope start-ups will get out of the show?
Eman Pulis:
We have a solid partnership with Gaming Malta, a government foundation who is tasked with promoting the island’s potential in igaming. Such start-ups will be able to not only meet experienced executives, investors and business angels, but will also be able to see the potential of setting up their offices in Malta in terms of talent and taxation.

GamCrowd: What has been the response so far in terms of the start-ups that are taking part?
Eman Pulis:
The response has been overwhelming. Without even promoting the start-up idea with a single social media post, we had a queue of start-ups enquiring because they had overheard of our intentions. We recently attended a number of shows, the latest being the VIVA conference in Paris, where we met a number of startups who seemed hungry for more visibility. I am particularly committed to this initiative. As a start-up romantic myself, I have been in that situation for a long time until I met the right partners so my business venture could take off. So this is a bit of an initiative to give back to up-and-coming start-ups what I felt was needed. There are so many bright sparks, not only in Malta but in all corners. Plus, with so many mergers and acquisitions, now seemed the perfect time to launch the startup pitch.

GamCrowd: What are your plans to help companies post-show?
Eman Pulis:
Great question – for a start-up pitch to succeed, it is not enough to support them with a two-hour show and a free booth. We are committed to foster the right long-term networking environment for these start-ups. We have bi-monthly dinners lined up for 2017 and we plan on inviting all those to each of the dinners, to give them an opportunity to network throughout the show. We will give them visibility throughout the year with our magazine publication and our SiGMA blog. We are blessed in the sense that we meet all industry stakeholders and are in a position to act as consultants for these startups. To put it succinctly, whenever we feel a business connection can be made, we will reach out to both ends and make the introductions.