Malta to Consider New Gaming Bill, Regulatory Overhaul

The growing online gambling industry hub of Malta has announced the pending introduction of a new gaming bill designed to overhaul the country’s wide-ranging gaming laws.

The bill is said to be bringing all gaming laws together into a single comprehensive entity.

Silvio Schembri, Malta’s Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation, announced on March 13 that a motion was presented in Parliament for a first reading of the bill.

The as-yet-unpublished omnibus bill would repeal all existing gaming regulation in Malta, replacing it with a new parliamentary act. This would be supplemented by subsidiary legislation focusing on each major focal point of Malta’s gambling interests, and supported by a bevy of technical directives and guidelines.

Consultations under way

According to Schembri, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is already hard at work consulting on and helping assemble this network of supporting regulatory framework.

Schembri himself has been at the forefront of Malta’s push into digital initiatives connected to Internet-based gambling, including the country’s efforts in creating a national framework for regulating blockchain technology.

He added: “This bill marks a major step in streamlining and encompassing the governance of all gaming services offered in and from Malta and across all channels under the competence of the MGA.

“The government wants to ensure that the gaming industry continues to be run responsibly, fairly and free from criminal activity, so that the Maltese jurisdiction provides a safe and well-regulated environment where the industry can also develop and innovate.”

Sliema gaming hub Malta

The March 13 statement from the MGA on the regulatory overhaul noted that the new bill would guarantee that body “the necessary latitude, resources and powers to regulate the gaming industry effectively and protect consumers, as required, focusing on evidence-based methodologies.”

Mr Schembri said he hoped to remove red tape “by increasing efficiency and flexibility for the regulator, whilst improving the robustness of the current framework and focusing regulation on outcomes”.

The added uniformity and coherence provided under the new bill is also designed to strengthen Malta’s growing reputation as an international online gaming regulator.

New legislative aims

Highlights of the planned regulatory overhaul include the elimination of legal loopholes, offering stronger consumer and problem-gambling protections, increasing safeguards against illegal money laundering operations. The new legislation will also aim to create fast-reaction channels when problems arise, such as in cases of complaints of match-fixing leveraged through a Malta-licensed site.

The MGA’s announcement included this bullet-point highlighting of the legislation’s aims:

  • Replacing the current multi-license system with a system in which there will be two different types of licenses – a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) license and a Business-to-Business (B2B) license – covering different types of activities across multiple distribution channels
  • Moving towards an objective-based rather than excessively prescriptive regulatory approach, to allow for innovation whilst ensuring that the regulatory objectives are attained
  • Broadening the regulatory scope to increase MGA oversight and allow for intervention where necessary and in a proportionate manner
  • Widening the MGA’s powers under the compliance and enforcement functions to better achieve the regulatory objectives, in line with concurrent developments on anti-money laundering and funding of terrorism obligations
  • Segmenting the key official role into various key functions within a licensed activity, requiring approval, for direct scrutiny and targeted supervisory controls, thereby raising the bar for persons of responsibility within a gaming operation
  • Strengthening the player protection framework by formalizing the mediatory role of the MGA’s Player Support Unit, enshrining segregation of player funds at law and moving towards a unified self-exclusion database across both remote and land-based delivery channels

This new legislative overhaul also encapsulates further goals such as:

  • Introducing new and more effective processes for criminal and administrative justice, including the allocation of appeals from decisions of the Authority to the Administrative Review Tribunal, as well as the introduction of a distinction between administrative and criminal offences
  • Introducing the concept of administration to protect an operation in distress and, if necessary, to assist the winding down of an operation, thereby protecting jobs and player funds
  • Moving towards automated reporting, facilitating adherence to regulatory obligations and strengthening the Authority’s oversight
  • Bolstering the Authority’s role in the fight against manipulation of sports competitions by introducing new obligations on operators to monitor sports betting and report suspicious bets, in line with the efforts being made by the National Anti-Corruption Task Force in which the Authority also actively participates
  • Exempting B2B licensees from gaming tax, thus increasing Malta’s competitiveness as a hub for B2B activities

The overhaul will be the largest outgrowth today of the large-scale industry review launched by the MGA last year.

The initial version of the bill, to be titled The Malta Gaming Act 2018 or similar, has already been published by MGA in the island’s official language, Maltese. An English-language version of the act awaits formal publication.

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