Spain's Ceuta Hopes To Claim Online Gambling Crown

The Spanish city of Ceuta is taking aim at Malta and Gibraltar’s status as online gambling hubs with generous tax breaks, and has snared 21 operators so far.

Names listed by the city's tax agency as present or future residents include Playtech, 888 Holdings, Betfred, Italy's Sisal and Mondobets, Casino777 and Luckia, which operates the region’s bricks-and-mortar casino.

After conferring with colleagues in Gibraltar and elsewhere, the director of tax services from law firm KPMG Abogados, Francisco de la Puente, said he determined that Ceuta had a "fantastic" tax situation.

Still, "all jurisdictions tell us they are champions", he joked.

De la Puente was among speakers and panellists on Wednesday at the inaugural Bet on Ceuta conference.

About 100 attended the event, the majority native Spanish speakers. Presentations were simultaneously translated from Spanish.

Some of the names that Ceuta says it has nabbed, at least in subsidiary form, are not well known at least outside Spain, such as Casino de Barcelona.

At least one has a degree of infamy  1xBet  which lost its Premier League football sponsorships after its UK-facing website was suspended in August. It still sponsors FC Barcelona, however.

Six Ceuta-bound companies are unidentified so far, as they did not want their names made public, according to the tax agency. The operators expect to employ on average ten employees each in the city, according to finance minister Alberto Gaita.

Officially known as the "Autonomous City of Ceuta", the region is touting tax breaks including gaming tax of 10 percent on gross gambling revenue — half that of the rest of Spain — corporate income tax of 12.5 percent and VAT equivalent to 0.5 percent, compared with 21 percent elsewhere in Spain.

It and sister city Melilla have been called the Gibraltar of Spain for their unique status as Spanish outposts in Africa, akin to Gibraltar’s positioning as a British overseas territory on continental Europe.

But Maria Jose Garde, general director of taxes at Spain's Ministry of Finance, was among several speakers who stated that Ceuta is "not a tax haven".

"I guarantee this," she said, before adding: "It is a very stable system which has all the clearance from Europe."

Superlatives were frequent at the conference and there was no scheduled time for questioning speakers or panellists.

"It's been great," said Ileana Mora, operations manager at Mondobets, the first operator to set up operations there, in July. "Sometimes it's hard to believe, everything seems too good to be true."