Regulating amusement machines and gaming parlors

Published on The MaltaToday¸ issue 16th March 2011

No more Las Vegas style gaming parlors as new regulations just came into force. The Lotteries and Gaming Authority has the power to grant such licenses provided it is satisfied that the applicant and any associated persons are “fit and proper persons.” Previously parlors mushroomed all over the islands in all corners of our  towns and villages. This has changed and gaming premises will now not be allowed to be in the vicinity of educational centres¸ football grounds or schools or any other place which offered education to children¸ and places of worship. Some say that these totaled more than 80 venues:- some larger than others but definitely no sheriff entered to check their games. When the curtain was brought down on the whole scene we witnessed police raiding the venues closing them and in some case confiscating equipment. This happened as a bolt in the blue in a mass swoop during August 2009. Then it came as no surprise that operators who invested thousands in new and second hand VLT’s had protested that they were put out of business claiming they had no prior notice or right of appeal.

The trouble was that the Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA ) had never issued any official licenses for such premises. Now almost two years after the closure the new regulations are somewhat onerous compared to the laissez faire style which reigned prior to August 2009. The new regulations provide for two licensing frameworks.  Legal Notice 74 of 2011 provides for the Amusement Machines Regulations¸ 2011 which will come into force on the 15th March 2011. Subsequently legal Notice 75 of 2011 provides for Gaming Devices Regulations¸ 2011 and will come into force on the 16th May 2011. Briefly the Amusement Machines Regulations provide for class 1 licenses and class 2 licenses. Class 1 licence is a license issued to those who manufacture¸ assemble¸ place on market¸ distribute¸ supply¸ sell¸ grant on lease or transfer and or operate an amusement machine.  The Class 2 license is one issued to those who host an amusement machine in premises accessible to the public managed by the licensee.  Furthermore¸ Article 17(b) provides that the maximum price charged per game on an amusement machine shall in no case exceed two euro (€2).  In the case of other games falling within the definition of “other amusement machines” the maximum price charged shall not exceed one euro (€1).  The third schedule providing for other amusement machines provides that licensees who apply for registration of other amusement machines shall pay a one-time non-refundable registration fee of seventy euro (€70) per other amusement machine. 

The said schedule also provides that licensees are subject to a one hundred euro (€100) license fee per other amusement machine per year. Introducing a novelty rule which now regulates gaming devices: Four new licenses are up for grabs i.e. Class 1¸ Class 2¸ Class 3 and Class 4 licenses. To start with Class 1 licenses refers to the manufacture¸ assemble¸ repair or service of  a gaming device¸ while Class 2 license relates to the authorization of a person to place on the market¸ distribute¸ supply¸ sell¸ lease or transfer a relevant gaming device.  Both licenses shall be subject to the payment of one-time non-refundable application fee of two thousand euro (€2000).   The LGA may further require applicants to pay the actual costs incurred by the same authority.  The license granted by