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EU Politician Attacks Gibraltar Gaming Industry

A member of the European Parliament has hit out at gaming companies based in Gibraltar and called on the European Commission to crack down on them as part of measures against tax havens and tax evasion. It came during a parliamentary session, where Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella put forward a set of questions on the issue to members of the commission.

A Parti Socialiste member of the EU parliament since 2004, 50-year-old Tarabella challenged the commission on whether Gibraltar’s gaming industry should be part of its tax crackdown.

“What action is (the European Commission) planning to take in respect of Gibraltar and the online gambling operators which have established themselves on the island in order to enjoy its tax breaks?” Mr Tarabella said.

“Gibraltar’s appeal to gambling operators has little to do with its tourist attractions. Online poker and casino sites which base their operations in Gibraltar can provide services both to countries which are already moving towards more relaxed gambling laws and to those which still impose restrictive measures.”

A British Overseas Territory of around 30,000 people, Gibraltar acts as a headquarters and base of operations for a number of the world’s online gaming companies. Bwin.party Digital Entertainment – the company behind PartyPoker – is one such company, having moved their operations to Gibraltar in 2001. The company has grown significantly following the move and is now the world’s largest publicly traded online gambling company.

888 also has its headquarters in Gibraltar, having moved there from Antigua in 2003. The company recently announced a first quarter revenue of $103 million, a figure that – if repeated for the remaining three quarters – would beat last year’s $376 million in revenue.

Mansion is also based in Gibraltar after being set up on the peninsula in 2003. The main sponsor of English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, Mansion has established itself as a popular online poker and gaming site due from its operations in Gibraltar.

While some countries in the EU, such as the Czech Republic, are taking measures that may benefit online poker and gaming, Belgium has blocked numerous online poker sites. PKR and Redbet were the latest to be blacklisted, with the Belgium Gaming Commission blocking their sites last month. Such regulations in the northern European country may explain Mr Tarabella’s recent calls in the EU parliament.

There has not yet been any comment or response from the European Commission to Mr Tarabella’s questions.

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