EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Jesús Martínez García, Director General of Technological Innovation of the Government of Melilla
The economic future of Melilla bets everything on technology and online gambling

With Christmas in full swing in the city of Madrid, Jesús Martínez García, General Director of Technological Innovation of the Government of Melilla, landed in Madrid to shed even more light on the new government's absolute willingness to roll out the red carpet for technology and online gaming companies.

It was raining in Madrid and we were talking about the mild climate of Melilla, which even in winter allowed my interviewee to get a tan.

The new government wants and is ready to help, to facilitate, to collaborate with the bureaucratic procedures that any company may have.

They are few, but they are absolutely devoted to facilitate to the maximum the settlement of companies that, welcomed by a propitious fiscal regime, push even more to the beautiful Melilla.
Jacqueline Mecinas (JM): How do you see the online gaming landscape in Spain?
Jesús Martínez García (JMG):
I think there is some regulatory uncertainty as to what the next restriction will be. Regulation has come to the sound of political changes and of who is governing. It would seem that everything is more conditioned by the political ideology of whoever is governing rather than providing legal certainty.

JM: What about the international online gaming market?
: I closely follow the international news. Right now there are emerging markets and we see it as an opportunity. Melilla's tax regime, the geopolitical situation and the climate, among other factors, make us optimistic about being attractive for many companies.

We do not have natural resources, we do not have a very large surface area, so our economic future lies there: by having the special regime for online gaming and technology companies. We have all the advantages for these sectors.

JM: How has Melilla progressed so far in terms of the settlement of technology companies?
Since the regulatory change at the end of 2017, the landing of these online gaming companies began. Our conditions are magnificent, difficult to match in other types of territories.

But we have had 4 years of political impasse with an executive that did not understand the importance of the moment. And, although it was not against it, it left this opportunity aside.

Fortunately, it is now clear to us that it is fundamental. It is the only way for the city to develop.

During the 20th century we lived on the trade of goods, with daily transit. Melilla and Ceuta have been two moderately commercial cities. But then Morocco intervened and the commercial border was closed. We had to reinvent ourselves and fortunately the special fiscal regime arrived, with which the State tries to give us a way out so that we can achieve economic development. That is the opportunity we have.

JM: Can you assure that Melilla will provide legal certainty, the continuity of the special tax regime?
There are no surprises, nor are they expected. We are working to shield the tax regime at the highest level. We do not have natural resources or other alternatives, and that is why we are fighting to be recognized. I believe there is a national consensus on this.

JM: Which are the sectors you want to attract?
Well, we cannot aspire to companies that require large natural resources. But we do want to attract all those that have a technological character. Esports and Video Games are sectors with audiences comparable to the Champions League, they are very important and we have to be there; translation services, e-commerce, ... there are many opportunities that we can attend because there is a team in Melilla that we are empowering to participate fully in this task.

JM: How will Melilla combine the attraction of online gaming companies with the promotion of responsible gaming?
We want companies to get involved through the (AJOM) Melilla Online Gaming Association,
to promote CSR. We want the subsidies they receive to be returned in some way to society, promoting employment and training. As for the administration, we are always very vigilant, we already have very high standards of compliance, although we must always be vigilant because the city of Melilla covers 12 km, it is much smaller than you can imagine. So gambling establishments are always going to be close to everything. Still, looking at the statistics there doesn't seem to be a problem.

In the meantime, we are working to create a more positive perception of the sector, promoting entrepreneurship and social responsibility projects. As I was saying, we want companies to return part of their profits to society and promote knowledge in technological areas. We know that the social image of gaming is not the best, but we are committed to changing it.

JM: What other initiatives do you have in mind for the economic development of Melilla?

JMG: In addition to online gaming, we are focused on attracting companies in the technology sector, especially in areas such as video game development. We want to take advantage of vocational and university training to prepare young people and attract talent to the sector. We are also exploring opportunities in e-commerce and we are committed to continue strengthening Melilla's economic development by focusing on small, medium and large companies that, even if they develop their activity internationally, can have their headquarters in Melilla; there are still many companies in Malta, for example, that we are going to try to attract.

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