Malta cancels eight licences and suspends four in 2018

2 July 2019

The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has revealed how its emphasis on ‘effective enforcement’ of regulations in 2018 led to the cancellation of eight licences and suspension of another four.

For the latter part of 2018, Malta was operating under new gaming laws, which came into effect on August 1 after approval from the Maltese Parliament in May of the same year. The laws handed the MGA greater powers in terms of both compliance and enforcement.

In its annual report, the MGA said that it issued 16 Notices of Reprimand and 73 Notices of Breach over the course of the year. The regulator also handed out a total of 139 administrative fines to operators for various regulatory breaches.

The majority of the fines were in relation to operators failing to submit periodic reports, as required required by law in Malta, while other penalties were issued for a breach of the licence conditions and failure to notify the MGA seek approval to make certain changes to their operations.

Meanwhile, the MGA conducted a total of 33 full-scope investigations regarding anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism in order to clamp down on these issues and their links to the gambling industry.

The MGA’s Fit & Proper Committee also deemed 63 individuals or companies to be unsuitable for a licence or role in a licence. In total, 37 were considered as not having satisfied the integrity and reputation requirements of the MGA’s fit and proper criteria due connections to money laundering or funding of terrorism.

Meanwhile, jointly with the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), the MGA implemented the Remote Gaming Implementing Procedures – Part II, directed at the remote gaming sector. This involved both organisations working together on cooperative initiatives to strengthen oversight of the gaming sector.

However, just eight licence applications were rejected in 2018, while 93 were issued. A total of 209 licence applications were put forward, with the others still in the acceptance process.

Land-based self-exclusion requests were up 14% year-on-year to 1,585, while requests from players to exclude themselves form websites operating under an MGA licence stood at 1.3m.

The MGA is planning to launch unified self-exclusion system covering all of its online licensees and in March of this year commenced a preliminary market consultation to gather stakeholder feedback on the proposal.

“2018 was a remarkable year for the Authority, predominantly because of the coming into force of the new law,” MGA chief executive, Heathcliff Farrugia, said.

“The new framework strengthened the MGA’s supervisory role, specifically in the areas of compliance and enforcement, enabling it to focus efforts on areas which present a higher risk profile.

“The new regulatory regime has also been pivotal in ensuring the Authority could become more agile in its decision-making.”

In terms of the MGA’s focus for 2019, Farrugia said that the organisation will seek to build on its efforts last year and continue with its strict approach to enforcement.

“The MGA’s focus will be that of consolidating what has been built so far, and continue building on its regulatory powers, to ensure holistic regulatory oversight focusing on the integrity of market participants and the protection of consumers, whilst also embracing technological innovation without prejudicing the attainment of its regulatory objectives,” he said.