Malta to Remain on Top of Developing Gaming Sector

MEDIA ROOM

Speaking in Parliament on the second reading of the Gaming, Lotteries and Other Games Bill, Finance and Economy Minsiter Tonio Fenech said it was crucial to stay on top of the gaming sector – one that was developing at an incredibly high speed. Despite this, he said the intent was not to turn Malta into another ‘Las Vegas’.

In a previous article, CSB Group wrote about the recent amendments to the Remote Gaming Regulations issued by the LGA. The Lotteries and Gaming Authority have recognised the growth of cross-border collaboration in the sector known as iGaming or online gambling.

It is interesting to see what the Maltese government has planned vis-à-vis avoiding that Malta turns into another Las Vegas? The government is already planning to introduce serious, responsible regulations with regards to this. Malta’s reputation is excellent due to it’s very well-regulated iGaming status. Despite being the smallest member state, Malta enjoys the benefits of being the largest gaming sector – to the amazement of other EU member states. Malta was also the first member state to introduce gaming legislation in 2004. In 2010 alone Malta had received almost €50 million in taxation and revenues from the sector.

This is further evidenced by the European Commission’s feedback, saying that Malta was above criticism as it had done things in the correct manner. Interest in Malta as the preferred jurisdiction remains high, and it would appear that there are 113 pending applications from would-be operators. What was necessary was the development of the gaming sector on an international and local reputation of clear governance as both were essentially one market with similar regulations.

Another initiative the Maltese government was looking at was the creating a niche whereby a new form of licensing would be created. This would cover gaming operations in casinos on cruise liners inside territorial waters. The principal gaming laws would still be amended by this Bill but there was a clear need of a proper strategy to safeguard its already excellent reputation while avoiding gambler abuse or addiction. That was where control was necessary.

Turning to jobs, the minister said that employees in the industry enjoyed good salaries. Their skills were also key to the development of the gaming industry. It is interesting to note that, to date, the gaming authority issued 400 licences for internet gaming for over 280 operators.

This same sector has now also become very important in as far as jobs and employment were concerned. The industry is seen as a major job creator and currently boasts over 6,000 employees. Malta remains respected and considered a leader in the sphere of gaming regulation.

Needless to say that screening of each applicant is extensive where submitted business plans really reflected sustainable proposals. An important milestone, and an EU first, had been in 2010 when it had launched the charter on players’ rights and responsibilities. Malta, despite huge challenges on the European level remains at the forefront. Some countries excluded gaming completely, while others wanted it to be under monopolistic control.

Turning to the EC’s recent Green Paper, the Finance Minister said certain contested aspects had been clarified by the European courts and the Maltese government received this well. The LGA strengthened application procedures and audits, with new criteria to shed light on certain applications that needed greater attention. One could now see the launch of new functions to better follow developments overseas. Such amendments were an attempt to stand up to the major changes and advancements of electronic levels – introducing new definitions in a live and dynamic sector.

The new proposed amendments would also give the LGA more power to regulate new models that had started being noticed soon after the 2010 amendments.

These made for new situations and loopholes.

All games need to be licensed by the authority with clear guidelines, thus resulting in a more effective, enforcing role for the LGA who would be able to enter into collaboration agreements with foreign authorities, enhancing its inter-national standing. Enforcement of regulations will further lead to more transparency.

The debate continues… .