World Gambling Briefing attempts to provide answer to regulatory complexities in Malta

Source : The Malta Business Weekly

With two days of interactive learning and practical debate¸ the World Gambling Briefing¸ held recently in Malta aimed at finding the answer to many regulatory complexities in the online gaming industry.

Recent amendments to the Remote Gaming Regulations issued by the Lotteries and Gaming Authority have recognised the growth of cross-border collaboration in the iGaming sector. This reform brought about a number of administrative changes¸ but the most significant change was that of permitting EU-based operators to plug-in to Malta-licensed gaming platforms without requiring a separate Maltese licence. These modifications indicate that the LGA is aware of consolidation trends – as operators merge or form partnerships – and takes due account of the growing need for mutual recognition between remote gaming regulators.

The Authority also appears to be intent on maintaining its open market approach to remote gaming¸ which is treated in Malta as an information service¸ just like other entertainment sold over the internet. The strategy taken by the LGA in amending its regulations should maintain Malta’s leading position in this industry – Malta already dominates remote gaming in Europe. Some other EU Member States seek to limit cross-border trade for remote gaming operators by adopting a “walled-garden” approach whereby their consumers are encouraged¸ or constrained¸ to use only locally-licensed remote gaming operators. The implementation of LGA’s amendments should simplify existing cross-border trade in the EU and anticipated some of the issues aired in the long-awaited EU Green Paper on On-line Gambling in the Internal Market¸ now published.

So one may ask “How will the online gambling market be affected – as it is the fastest growing segment of the overall gambling market¸ with annual revenues in excess of EUR6¸16bn reported in 2008?” This leads us to pose other crucial questions – “How will Maltese licences be affected by the Green Paper and the ‘walled garden’ approach being adopted in larger Member States? Will Malta remain at the forefront of a future-proof remote gaming industry?”

One of the expert speakers present was the European Commission’s Jean Bergevin. As Head of Unit of the Free Movement of Services and Establishment: Retail and Information services¸ Mr Bergevin spoke in light of the Green Paper on On-line Gambling in the Internal Market. His unit has been trying to steer a course towards a convergent¸ stable legal framework. Mr Bergevin said it was crucial for service providers and expert lawyers in the field to provide feedback related to the Green Paper as this could influence the European Union’s next steps. What was interesting to note was his emphasis on the importance of nations and regulators sharing their “know-how”. To this end¸ Brussels will soon stage events for industry experts to brief EU representatives. He continued by saying that the EU had deliberately excluded online gambling from the eCommerce and Services Directives out of respect for the various legal frameworks already in place within the various Member States. He also reminded the audience that there were many other directives that do apply to online gambling in a harmonised manner – although he said there was also a lack of clarity on the application of the Money Laundering Directive to online gambling. Some commentators expressed cynicism saying they believed the EU would take no action following th