There’s been another shock this week at the Malta Gaming Authority as a relative newcomer has been nominated to be the new chair.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has nominated Marlene Seychell to be the new chair of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). According to operators within the industry, Ms Seychell’s nomination has come as quite a shock because her background is in retail, not gaming.
Who is Marlene Seychell?
Until recently, Ms Seychell owned a successful clothing import company and retail shops around Malta. She is said to have held the franchises for more than five clothing brands on the island ranging from children’s clothes to women’s fashion.
Naturally, her nomination has puzzled some industry insiders, who told The Times of Malta: “We have nothing against Ms Seychell, as she has apparently built a successful fashion business; however, at such a crucial time when the industry is under attack due to a perception of money-laundering infiltration and lax supervision, we need someone more familiar with the industry to lead.”
But perhaps Ms Seychell should not be underestimated. This is “not her first rodeo” so to speak: she was also appointed to the board of directors for Malta Enterprise in 2013. Tellingly, she also addressed the Labour conference during the 2013 general election campaign, which shows that she is adept at getting her point across. She could be the influence needed to steer the MGA out of the challenging waters they currently find themselves in.
The MGA in the news
The MGA is currently fighting fires. Joe Cuschieri, the former head of the MGA, has fiercely denied reports published linking the Italian Mafia to the Maltese gaming industry and a somewhat lackadaisical approach when it comes to anti-money laundering policies.
However, Mr Cuschieri was keen to explain that, while he was in charge of the MGA, stricter monitoring was introduced to prevent money laundering, thanks to tighter links with the Financial Intelligence Analysis. In a statement, the MGA said: “If detection and prosecution of organized crime were easy, it would not exist in the first place. Information and resources available to Italian law enforcement are not readily available to gambling regulators – Maltese or otherwise.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the current claims, Mr Cuscheri is leaving his role at the MGA to work for the Malta Financial Services Authority.
Reaction from industry insiders
Industry insiders have had a mixed reaction to the proposed appointment of Ms Seychell. Opinions appear to be split between those who believe an industry-insider should have been appointed, and those who think that Malta’s gaming infrastructure will remain sound under her leadership.
Regardless, Malta doesn’t seem to be losing its iGaming reputation just yet. In fact, Bet365 announced that it will be expanding its presence in Malta, saying: “Due to regulatory developments in various jurisdictions and the evolving global regulatory environment for online betting and gaming, we have decided to increase our existing presence in Malta, which provides a mature and robust regulatory environment for the industry.”
It remains to be seen if those who are not in favor of Ms Seychell’s appointment will lobby for the selection of another person as the new head of the MGA. As of yet, no other potential candidates have been announced.