The 'jewel in the Mediterranean', Malta is best known for luring hordes of sunseekers annually to its picture-perfect turquoise seas and balmy climate.
While the island remains a quality holiday destination, it has risen in prominence over the past decade thanks to a vibrant start-up community spearheaded by the digital fields of iGaming and Blockchain. iGaming, in particular, has provided rich pickings for the local government - accounting for over 12% of all state GDP according to recent reports.
Globally, iGaming is one of a few industries to have bucked the downtrend and shown spirited resilience in the face of COVID-19. This prosperous sector continues to post sustained YoY growth while others grapple with the myriad challenges thrown up by the virus.
And on the front line leading the charge is the tiny island steeped in history.
On top of the multi-million euro contributions it makes via gaming taxes, property rentals, and direct employment, iGaming in Malta has helped prop up wider service and entertainment sectors during a particularly difficult time. It now trails only a handful of sectors in the government's GDP contributions pie-chart.
Capitalising on the island's strategic location and outstanding reputation as a hotbed for digital start-ups, the iGaming industry's governing body, the MGA, has laid down ambitious plans for Malta to become the 'Silicon Valley of Remote iGaming'.
That moniker may yet be some way off, but Malta's highly respected position as a leading force in iGaming is nonetheless recognised internationally. An MGA-awarded license is now highly sought after by budding iGaming outfits looking to enter the space.
The iGaming regulatory authority offers a number of cost benefits as its attempts to steal a march over competing jurisdictions and attract the star players of tomorrow. To illustrate, a tax rate of just 5% is levied on revenue earned by Maltese-registered iGaming firms - one of the lowest, globally.
Annual license fees are also an attractive proposition - clocking in at €25,000 for operators that offer players RNG (Random Number Generator)-based games of chance like online slots. This falls to just €10,000 for B2C firms exclusively providing Type 4 gaming services, covering verticals such as sports betting.
As added incentive for prospective start-ups, the MGA has promised to waive its minimum compliance contribution until a full year has elapsed following licence acquisition - a boon for up-and-coming businesses hoping to keep a lid on costs early on. On top of this, firms eligible for the Directive on Start-Up Undertaking are exempt from paying tax contributions for twelve months.
And the MGA's efforts appear to be bearing fruit. Alongside seasoned heavyweights of the iGaming world like Play'n GO, NetEnt, Evolution and Relax Gaming, an increasing number of start-up ventures have flocked to Malta to take advantage of its favourable tax regimen, dependable telecommunications and quality work-life balance.
These facets are supported by a robust underlying ICT infrastructure that has benefitted from radical improvements in recent years, propped up by Malta's established banking system and skilled workforce.
Regarding the latter point, estimations put Malta's cosmopolitan iGaming population at around 9,000 - with the majority densely concentrated within a 5km radius that stretches along the main north-east promenade.
The Rootz Appeal
Around 1% of the island's iGaming professionals currently ply their trade with multi-award winning Rootz LTD. Comprised of a collection of industry veterans with a passion for iGaming, the technology firm offers a proprietary full-scope platform that integrates CRM, Payments, KYC, Rewards and Data Analysis functions, with automation at the core.
With their first project rubber-stamped, the crew's flagship brand flew out of the traps in the summer of 2019. During its infancy, Wildz Casino saw some of the highest industry sign-up rates ever recorded, laying down a marker to the industry at large.
At the heart of the online casino's rewards proposition is Spinback™, a unique second-chance feature not found anywhere else. It works by offering a free spin whenever players encounter a winless stretch of five consecutive game rounds playing one of two popular video slots from provider Pragmatic Play.
Once five straight misses have racked up, the player can take their free spin to use on a different crowd-pleaser, powered by Relax Gaming. Both world-leading software studios, incidentally, base their operations within a stone's throw of the Rootz HQ in Malta.
Building on the early momentum, Rootz followed up their debut offering with a quirky 2020 release, Caxino Casino.
Though slightly brighter in appearance and appealing to a broader, recreationally-friendly demographic, Caxino comes with trademark Rootz features that combine to elevate the gaming experience - like lightning-fast processes and dynamic, customised rewards.
An unprecedented introductory deposit offer of just €1 was also advertised as a way for lesser bankrolled players to experience the thrill of online casino gaming and get a taste of the Caxino brand for less.
Fast-forward to the present day, and the Rootz lot are busy plotting their next move as the dust settles on their latest project.
Packing a huge dose of Hollywood stardust, the irrepressible David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff was enlisted to promote Wheelz Casino - dubbed as the firm's fastest and most responsive online casino to date.
Wheelz packs its own exclusive features, like Extra Wheel that incorporates their frontman's joie de vivre and unmistakable grin. Spinning alongside is the Wheel of Spinz, ready to hand out tailored rewards every time a player levels up at the casino.
Despite their marked differences and unique personalities, the Rootz family of online casinos each houses bulging game libraries that include some of the best-loved online casino games ever made. Chart-topping online slots like Book of Dead and Starburst sit alongside Live Casino hybrid titles that blend the best parts of table games with next-gen online casino technology.
Rootz promise to be the best of the breed through innovative technology – "apart from significantly improving the speed, easy navigation, dynamic rewards and providing a better customer experience with more winning opportunities.” Thanks to the work of the MGA, the firm is ideally placed to make that dream a reality.
Malta is a genuine breeding ground for iGaming start-up success. Its mix of cost incentives, favourable regulatory framework and island living represents a lucrative cocktail when married to a superior industry product - just ask the high-flyers at Rootz.