European Commission Expects Malta to Lead EU in GDP Growth

5.6% forecast more than double the European bloc average

The Maltese economy outperformed predictions in 2017, registering 7.2% over the first three quarters of the year. European Commission experts expressed some surprise at the rate of growth, and chalked it up to the export services sector going from strength to strength.

Now, the Commission forecasts a 5.6% growth rate for 2018, a figure that leads the EU at more than twice its average predicted growth rate, according to the Winter 2018 Interim Economic Forecast.

Private consumption is expected to become more of a driver of growth in 2018, as strong employment growth, improved consumer confidence and growing disposable income start to tell.

The European Commission forecast follows a similar pronouncement by the Central Bank, touting the expected growth leading up to 2020.


EU Commission delegates online gaming study to Quinel and Avviza

The EU Commission DG for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs commissioned international certification and test lab Quinel along with Avviza, an advisory firm who specialises in the online gaming sector in the second quarter of 2016. These two firms were assigned the duty of carrying out a matrix study on the technical requirements for Online Gambling needed in the EU and EEA member states.

This study is the first ever of its kind to be conducted by any member state or institution. The study gives a detailed and complete dynamic matrix. This allows the EU Commission and Member States a comprehensive view of the technical requirements each Member state stipulates in order to obtain an online gambling licence and to keep such enterprises in favourable standing.

Quinel’s Chairman, Mr Isacco Ceci stated: “This prestigious study was delivered and presented in Brussels last December to the EU Commission and to the national regulatory bodies within the EEA, and it is with great pride and satisfaction that Quinel could share its expertise and experience in the field of technical requirements with the EU Commission and 31 Regulators across the EEA.”

Founder of Avviza Advisory and Quinel’s supporting project partner Reuben Portanier added: “Carrying out a study of such a wide-ranging magnitude in terms of technical requirements mandated across national legislations, regulations, directives and technical guidelines was no easy task, however our joint Quinel/Avviza team worked relentlessly over such a short period of time and managed to produce a dynamic matrix study which is a first of its kind in this sector.”

Avviza is one of the leading European gaming advisory firms while Quinel is one of the leading certification and testing gaming labs internationally, having offices in Italy, Argentina and Malta.

Malta contests ECJ’s definition of illegal betting

Announcement was made recently by parliamentary secretary for competitiveness and economic growth Jose Herrera that Malta would be contesting the ruling of the European Court of Justice over the Council of Europe’s draft convention on sports competitions. The convention stated that illegal bets in sports should be those bets considered illegal by a country’s consumer legislation. Malta feels that this definition of illegal betting “hinders the free movement of services within the EU.”

Parliamentary Secretary Jose Herrera said that Malta agrees with the aims of the convention which were primarily to combat manipulation yet he feels that  “this definition would inevitably influence Malta’s gaming sector, and consequently Malta is seeking the ruling of the ECJ because if ratified, the new definition would hinder the free movement of services” .

The draft convention describes as “any sports betting activity whose type or operator is not allowed under the applicable law of the jurisdiction where the consumer is located.” which the Council of Europe is set on changing. The Council of Europe sources were quoted as stating this definition is  an “inappropriate encroachment into the Maltese betting industry”.

Herrera is concerned that if this draft is ratified it could lead to licensed Maltese operators being limited from extending their operations abroad unless they abide by the laws of the other member states.

If the ECJ declares that the draft convention is not compatible with EU laws – namely the free movement of services and the free market– the Council of Europe would be prohibited from ratifying the convention unless it is amended.

Insisting that Malta’s reservations focus solely on the definition of illegal sports betting – and not the objectives of the council – Herrera argued that due to the fact that Malta’s reservations were not addressed in the Convention, the government will seek the ECJ ruling.

LGA chairman Joseph Cuschieri also stated that the interference in sports betting by this convention is “unacceptable” and he stated that the LGA will not allow anything to interfere with growing Malta’s gaming sector.  “Ever since Malta implemented rules on remote betting, in line with the laws regulating the free market an operator registered in Malta could operate across Europe with one licence, that of the LGA.

Since the financial crisis, countries have been intent on implementing certain licence frameworks to tax these gaming operators. These frameworks are basically saying that even though a gaming company has a licence in Malta, it would need another licence to operate across Europe.”

Dr Herrera advised that Malta also sought legal expert advice on the matter at hand. In May, Malta had moved proposals for the disposition to be amended. It had clearly stated its intentions throughout negotiations and even sent explanations to the European Commission in writing. However, the definition stayed in the same format.

He said the country’s objections were three – that the definition related exclusively to licencing and operator regulation, which was not the aim of the convention, that the definition went against EU treaties and regulations on free movement of services, and that the definition would harmonise industry regulations at a European level when the EU had no such regulations and this could impact on future EU regulations in the sector.

European Commission raises health hazards awareness

The European Commission is encouraging countries across the continent to demand that online gaming adverts display similar messages as those found on cigarette packs.

Reuters reported yesterday that they have obtained a draft document which states that the European Union executive intends to focus on advertising, in their combat against compulsive gambling.

They also reported that this week the EU executive is expected to present its recommendation to improve controls over Europe’s €10.5 billion ($14.3 billion) e-gaming industry.

Figures presented by the European Commission suggest that online gambling is the fastest growing service activity in Europe, growing at a rate of 15% a year.

Expectations are that it could urge countries to tighten the advertising rules, despite the recommendation not being legally binding.

In countries such as France, a helpline number and health warning messages are currently present on all iGaming websites and in all advertising material. The recommendation is meant to prompt countries into replicating what is already happening.

The process is meant to inform the players of chances of winning and losing, risk of becoming an addict and assistance for compulsive gambling.

The EU also plans to propose a ban on internet gambling firms sponsoring events that are aimed at players under the age of 18.

Responsible Gaming has been duly promoted and and encouraged by the Lotteries and Gaming Authority as well as the licensed operators in Malta. On the 18th February 2014 The Responsible Gaming Foundation was launched by the Authority, as a means of offering support to operators and players alike.