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Gibraltar: Still Open For Business, Part 1

History of the UK Overseas Territory and Online Poker Mecca

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A jagged boulder jutting awkwardly out of the arid Andalusian landscape, the Rock of Gibraltar is no larger than the mountains in its close proximity, yet it proudly dominates its surroundings with all the majesty you would expect from so famous a landmark. Gibraltar's history can be traced back to Neanderthal times, but control of the "key" to the Mediterranean had passed through Phoenician, Carthaginian, and Roman hands (amongst others) before its Moorish conquest in 711 AD. The Moors enjoyed Gibraltar's strategic importance for over 750 years before ceding control of Gibraltar to Spain. However Gibraltar's modern history began in 1704 when, taken by an Anglo-Dutch force and through the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, British sovereignty over the Rock began.

In 2004 Gibraltarians proudly celebrated their Tercentenary of British rule, but it has been a turbulent 300 years for the inhabitants of this controversial Rock. A series of sieges blighted Gibraltar's population during the early years of British rule, and in more recent times the closure of the land border to Spain in 1969 virtually isolated Gibraltar from the rest of Europe. When the border fully reopened in 1985, the British Ministry of Defence was practically sustaining Gibraltar's economy, accounting for 70 percent of its income and being by far its biggest employer. However the dockyard could no longer keep the civilian population in employment, and Gibraltar was forced to adapt, drawing the attention of respected international firms through an accommodative legal framework and tax regime. These factors, together with the Mediterranean climate, have all contributed to making Gibraltar an unlikely front-runner in the world of online gaming.

It all began around 1999 when UK-based bookmakers Ladbrokes and Victor Chandler set up shop in Gibraltar in order to bypass UK betting taxes on "sportsbook" type betting. The British Government soon scrapped these taxes, but Gibraltar remained competitive, offering these firms many good reasons to stay put. Factors such as Gibraltar's much improved telecommunication infrastructure added to its appeal, attracting companies like Cassava (888.com) and PartyGaming, which shifted their operations to Gibraltar in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Approximately 18 months ago Mansion became the latest online gaming group to base itself on the Rock. According to their website, they saw Gibraltar as a global e-commerce hub which they chose for its strategic centrality, infrastructure, and its commitment to finance and betting industries.

Whilst Gibraltar with its English-speaking workforce had a lot to offer these gaming firms, the marriage of convenience worked both ways. Increased tax revenues were gratefully received by the local government, as were the improved employment prospects on offer to Gibraltarians.

Tomorrow, "Gibraltar: Still Open for Business, Part 2."


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