In early June, the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association announced that Nicholas Macias would be leading the association as Secretary General, replacing the outgoing CEO Paul Foster.

Following his appointment, Macias has spoken to CasinoBeats about his new role, why he has decided to return to the GBGA, Gibraltar’s Gambling Act and the challenges currently facing the organisation and the territory’s gambling future.

CasinoBeats: Congratulations on your new role with the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association. Why have you decided to return to the organisation?

Nicholas Macias: Thank you. Gibraltar has always been a premier remote gambling jurisdiction and the GBGA has always played a key role in ensuring this. I also recall the GBGA and its members taking a leading role in industry matters cross-jurisdiction, not just Gibraltar. 

For instance, their work with the European Gaming and Betting Association on CEN standards on responsible gambling and setting up the European Sports Security Association, which is now known as the International Betting Integrity Association. It is this proven track record, and helping to ensure the GBGA continues to play these key and leading roles that appeals to me greatly.

CB: You will be replacing Paul Foster at the GBGA, but as Secretary General instead of CEO. What does this new role entail?

NM: It does not differ greatly, if at all, from the role that Paul had. I have to run a programme of work that is of value and benefit to our members and keep the Chairman and the GBGA Directors on the Executive Committee regularly updated and involved. The only major difference is that whereas the CEO was also a GBGA Director on the Executive Committee, the Secretary General is not.

CB: Joining you as part of your team will be Angela Almeida and Bua Malamalatabua from ‘The Dream Team’. What will their roles involve?

NM: The GBGA has to ensure that its processes and arrangements are robust to be able to function efficiently and effectively (eg setting up and documenting all committee and sub-committee meetings, processing membership renewals and applications for membership, working with our fiduciary services provider, our accounts and auditing providers, etc), and Angela and Bua will share responsibility for this.

Angela and Bua are excellent at arranging and running in-person meetings and events, they’ll masterfully take responsibility for all venue and catering hires, etc and will ensure that all goes smoothly on the day.

They will also have responsibility for implementing and running a strong and effective communications programme with our members to be able to engage efficiently with them. I also like that they have a wide and varied network in Gibraltar that we may be able to tap into depending on the subjects and topics that we’d be working on.  

CB: In June, the Financial Action Task Force announced that Gibraltar would remain on its grey list. What challenges does this decision cause? What is the GBGA doing to help with the removal of Gibraltar from this list?

NM: To state something which I’m sure would be quite evident, a corporate entity from and in a jurisdiction that is on the grey list will find challenges in meeting the due diligence requirements of third parties (eg financial institutions) it either has long-standing arrangements with, or are looking to enter into new arrangements, that corporate entities from and in jurisdictions which are not on the grey list do not have. The risk of third parties terminating or refusing to enter into arrangements with corporate entities from jurisdictions on the grey list is also higher than the risk to corporate entities from jurisdictions not on the grey list.

The FATF concluded that Gibraltar would be included in the grey list for not fully addressing two out of seventy-eight recommended actions, namely the imposition of appropriate regulatory sanctions by supervisors, and obtaining appropriate final asset restraints arising from money laundering investigations by law enforcement agencies.

FATF last month updated that Gibraltar had made progress towards fully addressing these two recommended actions to the extent that further progress is required on final asset restraints but not appropriate regulatory sanctions by supervisors, as far as I understand. 

Of these two points, the one that had direct implications for our members is the imposition of regulatory sanctions by supervisors, and the onus has been on the supervisory body, in our case the Gambling Commissioner, rather than us the industry.

The Gambling Commissioner, I would think, would have been able to point to the GBGA as the association that provides them with a forum and a facility to be able to address and engage its licensees collectively, eg ‘lessons learnt’ exercise from AML-related enforcement action carried out, and for the GBGA to act as a single voice for the industry. 

Indeed, we held a very well-attended and all-round successful ‘lessons learnt’ session with the Gambling Commissioner last year, and we have incorporated into our internal policies the fact that we will routinely invite the Gambling Commissioner to address all our members in the event of enforcement action from them from here on.

CB: How will the GBGA be assisting the Gibraltar gambling industry in understanding and adapting to the new Gambling Act?

NM: We carried out extensive work on this last year. Our meetings and events/workshops on the Command Paper and proposed new licensing regime last year were very well attended and welcomed by our members, and we were able to provide collective feedback and raise collective issues that both our members and the HM Government of Gibraltar (which is drafting the revised Act and licensing regime) found very useful and helpful. This meant that we had an ongoing and effective engagement with the Gambling Commissioner and other policymakers involved in drafting the Act and licensing regime in person and in writing, and we still do.

We are currently waiting for the next version of the Command Paper and proposed licensing regime, which will factor in the feedback we provided and the issues we raised, and once published we will engage with our members, invite them to our meetings and events/workshops on the subject, and continue to engage with the authorities.

Even then, once the consultations have run their course and we have a new Act and licensing regime, we will have a period of consultations on new or revised rules and regulations/codes of practice, which means we will have plenty to keep us busy.

CB: Are there any other challenges facing the GBGA right now? How do you plan on tackling them?

NM: We are keeping close to developments as regards Gibraltar’s Brexit deal with the EU and Spain. This is something huge and important to Gibraltar at large and will have an impact on Gibraltar and industries in Gibraltar in one way or another. We have very strong ongoing lines of communication with the HM Government of Gibraltar, the Minister for Gambling, and the Gambling Commissioner that helps us monitor developments and provide any updates to our members.

CB: Finally, what are the GBGA’s goals for the remainder of 2023 and beyond?

NM: In addition to working on the new Act, licensing regime, and consequent new codes of practice, and monitoring developments on the Gibraltar Brexit deal, the GBGA’s constitution allows us to set sub-committees and progress work via this vehicle. I believe that this is quite a powerful tool at our disposal.

We trialled the ‘Data Protection’ sub-committee last year and it worked quite well and has provided us with a blueprint to work further on. This year, and beyond, we’ll be looking at setting up sub-committees to work on topics and subjects such as safer gambling (including protecting underage persons), anti-money laundering, sports betting integrity, etc. These, when set up, should provide our members with substantial value and benefits.

Moreover, we are committed to supporting the University of Gibraltar’s Centre of Excellence in Responsible Gambling for the benefit and value it would provide Gibraltar and our members, and we are looking forward to engaging more with our fellow gambling trade associations across Europe via the European Trades Association platform facilitated and run by EGBA. Indeed, we’re also looking forward again to our role as a participating association in European Safer Gambling Week which will take place in November, and which will see us co-ordinate our ESGW work and activities with both CERG and EGBA.

I should also mention that we are a strategic partner in the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council to identify opportunities for our members via this vehicle, and we are looking forward to working on a Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion programme.

I should not forget that one of the GBGA’s objectives is to facilitate networking and engagement amongst persons in our industry through social events and not just work events, and we look forward to setting up more of these. 

You see, there’s plenty that we want to do and will do, and I am excited about what the GBGA can do for its members and Gibraltar at large.