Gibraltar-based betting firm bet365 to expand in Malta

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Gibraltar (AFP)

British online betting company bet365 said Monday it plans to expand in Malta but vowed keep its "strong presence" in Gibraltar where it is based, amid concerns Brexit could cause on exodus of gaming firms from the territory.

A company spokesman said it would boost its staff in Malta, but dismissed as "wholly inaccurate" a report in The Sunday Times of Malta that said bet365 plans to relocate around 1,000 employees from its operations in Gibraltar after Britain leaves the European Union next year.

"Notwithstanding these plans for Malta, we can confirm that we will be retaining our strong presence in, and commitment to, Gibraltar where our main operational hub is based," the spokesman said.

Gibraltar, a tiny contested British territory on Spain's southern tip, has over the past two decades become the unofficial capital of the global online gaming industry.

The sector accounts for around a quarter of Gibraltar's gross domestic product. And around 30 percent of the global online gaming sector -- worth an estimated $39.3 billion (33.4 billion euros) in 2016 -- was generated in Gibraltar, according to consultants H2 Gambling Capital.

But Britain's EU departure could pose a major headache for the industry if it cuts off access to the key European market, and if it makes it difficult for employees of betting firms to cross over from Spain to their jobs in Gibraltar.

Gibraltar's minister for gambling, Albert Isola, said bet365 had confirmed to the government that it remained totally committed to Gibraltar".

"They are not leaving Gibraltar by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

"What remains true is that Gibraltar remains the jurisdiction of choice for the most reputable gaming companies in the world. Brexit isn't going to change that."

Spain ceded Gibraltar in perpetuity to Britain in 1713, but has long wanted it back.