The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is pushing for the implementation of a new law aimed at safeguarding the country’s online gaming companies from international prosecution.
Malta Witnesses 75% Drop in New Gaming Licenses Amidst Greylisting Concerns
According to data analysis conducted by The Shift, there has been a staggering 75% decrease in new gaming licenses issued by the MGA in 2022 compared to the peak year of 2018. This decline in registrations has been attributed to Malta’s greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 2021, which led to a loss of confidence among prospective registrants. Last year, the country was removed from the FATF grey list.
To combat this downward trend, economy minister Silvio Schembri, on behalf of the MGA, has proposed a new law to make it more difficult to prosecute Maltese gaming companies internationally. The aim is to enhance the perception of the MGA as a more lenient and cooperative authority, which could attract more applicants seeking licenses.
The decrease in new licenses is a matter of concern for Malta, as the iGaming industry currently contributes over 12% to the country’s GDP. The decline in registrations raises questions about Malta’s popularity as a jurisdiction for gaming operators.
In response to the drop in licenses, the MGA has also adopted a more forgiving approach towards licensees involved in misconduct. The authority has reduced the number of license cancellations, hoping that this leniency will make it more attractive for potential applicants.
Legal Experts Criticize Proposed Gaming Amendment Act in Malta
However, the proposed bill, known as the Gaming Amendment Act or Bill No. 55, has faced criticism from legal experts. Austrian and German lawyers representing clients in legal disputes with Malta-licensed online gaming companies argue that the bill undermines the rule of law and restricts the rights of EU citizens and residents.
Bill No. 55 seeks to prevent legal action against Maltese licensees and their officials in relation to the provision of online gaming services authorized by the MGA. It also states that foreign court decisions in this regard should not be recognized or enforced by Maltese courts.
The concerns raised by legal experts highlight the ongoing issue of offshore online casinos operating in countries where they are not licensed. This legal grey area has persisted since the inception of the online gambling industry. Malta’s iGaming sector has been embroiled in various controversies, including allegations of money laundering and links to organized crime. A recent investigation revealed the involvement of a Maltese iGaming certification company in a gambling website accused of illicit activities in Brazil.