Over the last few years, Malta has become one of the most-desired gaming destinations for a great number of iGaming operators that seek a serious jurisdiction with yet a favourable regulatory framework. The phenomenal success of the country as one of the premier hubs for iGaming operators in Europe has come after some of the biggest names in the industry have chosen Malta as home for their operations.
The increasing popularity of Malta as a gaming hub has come as a result of a certain strategy, combining a variety of factors and administrative rules presented by the competent authorities in favour of the gaming operators who have decided to be based there.
The country has set a number of laws in order to create a suitable regulatory framework for gambling operators that would like to operate on its territory.
Legislation and Regulatory Framework
Currently, it is the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) which is the country’s responsible body for regulating the gaming sector and issuing the operating licenses awarded to operators. Maltese gaming legislation is based on a three-tier framework, including three levels of regulation.
The first level of gaming legislation is the Lotteries and Other Games Act of 2001, which was passed through the Parliament. The piece of gaming legislation regulates all forms of gaming on the territory of the country, with casinos being the only exclusion, as they are being regulated by the Gaming Act. In addition, this first level of gaming legislation sets the most basic principles of gambling and also establishes the regulatory authority in the country.
The second level of Malta’s gaming legislation includes the Regulations, which are set to outline the detailed information on the procedure of issuing a gambling license. Regulations also relate to specific sectors of the gaming industry and set the technical systems requirements.
The third tier of the legislation and regulatory framework is the one of Directives and Guidelines. The Directives are issued by the Malta Gaming Authority and have binding power, while Guidelines are aimed to help local operators comply with their obligations. Also, both Directives and Guidelines feature a variety of measures that are aimed at providing some flexibility in terms of the constant growth and development of the local gaming market.
One of the main advantages of Malta which helped it turn in one of the leading iGaming hubs in Europe and contributed to its remarkable market growth since 2000 is the fact that the country has proved that is among the most attractive financial services centres in the European Union. Currently, the fiscal regime provided by the country to online gaming operators is quite favourable to operators.
In addition, the strategic location the country in the Mediterranean sea and the fact it is a state member of the European Union have also helped Malta settle as both a politically and economically stable environment for all online gaming operators that are looking for a well-established legislative and regulatory framework for their operations.
Currently, a large number of online gaming operators have preferred to host operations of theirs in the country thanks to the favourable environment available there. So far, approximately 500 gaming and sports betting licenses have been issued by the local regulatory watchdog to various casino, gaming and sports betting operators. Up to date, leading international gaming companies such as Aspire Global International, Betfair, Bet-At-Home, Betway Limited, Casumo, NetBet, EveryMatrix, Interwetten, LeoVegas, Mr Green, etc. have some of their operations located in Malta. At the end of May 2017, the leading UK gaming company Sky Betting and Gaming revealed that it has applied for a MGA license.
What is more, at the beginning of June, the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat revealed that a number of leading iGaming operators have filed license applications to the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). Although he did not disclose the names of the companies, his words came to prove that Malta remains in the global iGaming operators’ focus and will undoubtedly be a leading iGaming hub in Europe in the future, too.
Considering the fact that there are some gambling markets that feature much tighter regulation of online gambling, it is not surprising that experts projected future growth for Malta’s online gambling industry.
However, the rapidly changing environment, the recent innovations and constantly growing customer needs and expectations could require some changes of the country’s regulatory framework. The current legislation and regulatory framework of the country has been existing for more than a decade now, but despite the fact it served well to both the country and its gaming sector, the latter has developed to an extent that requires some changes to be made. According to media reports, such measures could be expected to be introduced until the end of 2017.
Recently, the MGA Executive Chairman Joseph Cushieri has highlighted the necessity of a new generation of legislation which is much more complied with recent innovations in terms of technologies and even new forms of gaming. As mentioned above, customers’ needs are also constantly rising, so that legislation should be adapted in a way that offers suitable customer protection measures.
Of course, if a new legislation framework is officially unveiled, the gambling landscape in the country will be changed. Actually, the changes are expected to be quite positive for Malta’s reputation as a reliable destinations for various forms of gambling. According to the MGA’s Chairman, it could be even used as a worthy example for other jurisdictions not only in Europe but also around the world.
In addition, apart from eventual legislation changes, there are certain types of gaming activities that have recently become more popular in various markets. Daily Fantasy Sports and e-sports are among the brightest examples of gaming activities that have marked substantial growth. Still, it remains to be seen whether they will gain popularity in the Maltese gaming market or not, especially considering the much wider variety of gaming products available in Europe, and respectively, in Malta.