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GIBRALTAR: An Introduction to General Business Law

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Doing business in Gibraltar – a tradition of innovation

Gibraltar’s story is one of vision, invention and commitment. In gaming, in financial services, in cryptocurrency and beyond, Gibraltar has been reliably disruptive. It has made a success of balancing progress with the protection of consumers, revenue with reputation, and matching creativity to certainty of law.

General 

Putting business first, Gibraltar offers start-ups all the features that make up a modern, state-of-the-art business community, which include government services designed to facilitate establishment and a sophisticated range of legal statutory solutions for all business endeavours, underpinned by a locally-evolved, British common-law legal system. The labour workforce (Gibraltar has enjoyed extremely low levels of unemployment for many years, availing itself of a 15,000-strong force of cross-frontier workers) is awash with industry-specific talent and also counts on a UK-trained, qualified and connected body of professionals in legal, accounting, compliance and beyond.

A key element of the Gibraltar proposition is the predictability and reliability of law with efficient and cost-effective dispute resolution mechanisms with UK Court of Appeal judges and the Privy Council as court of ultimate appeal.

From fiat to crypto, Gibraltar also offers a range of banking options for all corporate clients, with UK household names and private banks providing the right solution to meet client needs. Start-ups are born in the context of a simplified business licensing process, enabling entrepreneurs to get their ideas to market quickly and efficiently. Even in the context of activities under regulatory supervision, whether in gaming or financial services, Gibraltar offers a speed to market, agility and access to the regulator unmatched by other developed financial centres.

Specific market opportunities – private client 

At the time of writing, technical negotiations are under way to settle mechanisms for the practical implementation of the EU/UK treaty relating to Gibraltar, which envisages Gibraltar’s inclusion in the Schengen Area of border-free movement. A key challenge of Brexit, that of border fluidity, is addressed by the in-principle agreement announced on 31 December 2020. It is further anticipated that entering Schengen will represent a further feather in the cap of the jurisdiction’s private client offering, which includes a low personal tax environment, low corporate tax, no wealth, capital gains or inheritance taxes, and no tax on investment income. In addition, Gibraltar offers the full suite of private client structuring options expected of a modern and sophisticated financial centre jurisdiction. Gibraltar is, importantly, children- and family-friendly, has an English education system with excellent state and private provision, has a local airport servicing various locations in the UK and is only an hour’s drive away from Malaga Airport, the fourth busiest airport in Spain.

Specific market opportunities – online gaming and remote gambling

In online gambling, entrepreneurs and established operators alike continue to face challenges based on social and government resistance to the traditional business model. Balancing commercial interests with safeguarding users continues to be one of the key challenges in an industry that is under close regulatory and social scrutiny. In this context, Gibraltar continues to offer a world-class and pioneering regulatory and business environment from which to headquarter international online gaming business.

As a first mover in the industry, Gibraltar is today home to many of the world’s key players in online sports betting and gambling, who have chosen Gibraltar as a safe, tax-efficient and business-friendly jurisdiction to operate from.

Specific market opportunities – financial services

Gibraltar offers continued single-market access to the UK market in financial services, providing a unique advantage compared to all other overseas territories. By means of the Gibraltar Authorisation Regime (‘GAR’), operators in Gibraltar enjoy uninterrupted access to the UK on terms morphing former access via the European passport. Permanent arrangements for continued access are currently under negotiation and are anticipated to provide a permanent basis for developing access in financial services, gaming and other areas from 2022.

The key hallmarks of doing financial services business in Gibraltar include speed to market and access to the regulator, which enables Gibraltar-licensed operators to explore opportunities and tackle challenges with regulator support which is simply not possible in larger centres.

Specific market opportunities – funds and investment services

Gibraltar offers the possibility of establishing private funds, allowing a fast and efficient process of establishment, and allowing for the pooling of investment in a variety of scenarios. Private funds are regularly the solution of choice in the context of family investment strategies, as well as when a limited and finite group of investors wish to opt for a collective investment vehicle.

Gibraltar also offers the possibility of establishing an Experienced Investor Fund via a ‘notification’ process whereby promoters appoint approved directors and officers, and this can be established in a matter of a couple of weeks.

Protected Cell Companies offer a further layer of legal ringfencing for the separation of asset classes and strategies.

Specific market opportunities – fintech, blockchain and DLT

The regulatory treatment of crypto around the world as a truly disruptive force in finance has been seized upon by Gibraltar as an opportunity. Gibraltar offers a bespoke regulatory environment for financial services provided on distributed ledger technology, enabling the development of one of the key drivers of growth in Gibraltar’s financial services sector since 2017/18.

With an established track record in tech and online business, Gibraltar is home to many of the world’s key players in crypto.

Gibraltar also offers a sophisticated context in which crypto funds can now and have already been established, in addition to providing a base for the creation of Stablecoins. As widely reported in industry media, Gibraltar is also home to the first Gibraltar company to organise and launch a fully US SEC compliant security token.

From seed to fruit – committed to safely delivering on creativity

Gibraltar remains committed to supporting and developing the pursuit of regulated activities from the Rock – Gibraltar was the birthplace of regulation in online gambling and gaming, leading the development of a nascent industry through the many initial challenges and setting the agenda for safeguarding users while nurturing growth into the UK market. Anecdotally, 75% of all bets placed in the UK are placed with a Gibraltar-based company.

In financial services, Gibraltar retains full single-market access to the UK, where one in five cars on British roads is insured from Gibraltar. As with gaming, Gibraltar led the way in developing one of the leading regulated environments for financial services provided on distributed ledger technology.

Opportunities on the horizon 

Gibraltar continues to look forward and plan for a post-Brexit range of services providing new opportunities for economic activity. With a targeted approach to ‘rest of the world’ and UK financial services, there remains some interest in retaining access to the EU market in financial services to the extent that the UK itself negotiates access on an equivalency basis. Gibraltar is also examining new opportunities that may arise from entering into the Customs Union or some other customs union arrangement, a consequence of which will be the likely implementation of VAT. Gibraltar looks forward to the opportunities that a post-Brexit environment presents and is engaged with tackling all its associated challenges too.