Maltese Parliament Present New Gaming Bill

New motion tabled in Parliament for the first reading of a new Gaming Bill

The Gaming Bill will endeavour to replace all existing legislation with a singular primary Act of Parliament. Once the Act comes into force a series of technical directives and guidelines currently being consulted on by the Malta Gaming Authority will be published alongside subsidiary legislation.

sigma igaming Maltese Parliament Present New Gaming BillAnnounced by the Hon Silvio Schembri, Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation, the Bill will ensure that the MGA has the necessary resources and powers to effectively regulate the gaming industry whilst protecting consumers. This will be in line with concurrent developments on anti-money laundering and funding of terrorism obligations. The bill will also focus on consumer protection standards and responsible gaming.

The consultation with the MGA was launched in July 2017 and was well recieved, resulting in feedback from 53 different parties both locally and abroad.

‘’This Bill marks a major step in streamlining and encompassing the governance of all gaming services offered in and from Malta and across all channels under the competence of the MGA. The Government wants to ensure that the gaming industry continues to be run responsibly, fairly and free from criminal activity, so that the Maltese jurisdiction provides a safe and well regulated environment where the industry can also develop and innovate.’’ Hon. Silvio Schembri said.

‘’We hope to remove any red tape by increasing efficiency and flexibility for the Regulator, whilst improving  the robustness of the current framework and focusing regulation on outcomes. Thanks to this New Gaming Bill the industry will grow by another 4%’’ Hon. Schembri added.

The press conference was also addressed by Joseph Cuschieri, Executive Chairman of the MGA who stated: ”This is an important milestone and welcome this major step forward by the Maltese Government. This Bill contains draft proposals which aim to bridge the regulatory gap between various gaming verticals and channel, including new technologies serving as a platform to future proof gaming regulation whilst ensuring that consumers enjoy a consistent level on protection.”



MGA chairman Joe Cuschieri tipped for MFSA CEO job

MFSA change in leadership to coincide with reform

Joe Bannister is set to step down from his leadership role with the MFSA after 20 years in the hot seat. Joe Cuschieri, current chairman of the Malta Gaming Authority, is widely acknowledged as the favourite for the MFSA CEO position. John Mamo is to over as non-executive chairman.

Change is in the air at the MFSA, as the changes at the top are happening in the context of institutional reform. The amendment to the Malta Financial Services Act being debated in parliament will enable the government to forge ahead with its plans to appoint a chief executive officer. Current legislation does not provide for this position.

The Act makes provision for a chairman of the Board of Governors, who is to be appointed by the prime minister, as well as a director general and chief operations officer, who together with the chairman, the Director of the Legal Office and the Registrar of Companies make up the co-ordination committee.

A spokesman for the Parliamentary Secretariat for financial services said that the second and third reading are forthcoming. “The authority and the Opposition are being kept abreast about all these discussions and the proposed changes,” he said.

Sources say that the vacancy can only be advertised when the position is created, making the legislative process key to progress. The Bill specifies that the CEO would be chosen by the board of governors. There is no word yet, from official or unofficial sources, on any likely successors to Joe Cuschieri should his move to the MFSA materialise in the wake of the Malta Financial Services Act.


MGA seeks collaboration with Italian Anti-Mafia Commission

Lacking collaboration between anti-mafia authorities

The gaming watchdog fears that a possible result of a lack of collaboration with Italian anti-mafia  authorities shown by the Malta police and regulators, could be the weakening of the fight against irregular activity.

Malta Gaming authorities stated that despite the regulator not being a law-enforcement medium, information relating to irregular activity in correlation with companies registered in Malta did reach it on occasion.

“The problem is that there is no collaboration between the Italian authorities investigating the Mafia, the Malta police and authorities like us. We are literally kept in the dark and find out what’s happening from the Italian press,” sources insisted.

MGA executive chairman, Joseph Cuschieri, reportedly said to Agimeg, the Italian gaming news site, that he would like to “start a collaboration” with the Italian Anti-Mafia Commission, and also any other agency that would want to be in the know about Italian gaming operators’ activity in Malta.

He also insisted that “a handful” of Italian companies that were registered in Malta, in spite of not actually operating here, were going through a review process.

This comes after the recent arrest of Benedetto Bianchi by Italian police, the former being a suspect relating to the membership of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, earlier this month.

The notorious Mr.Bacchi, regarded as the “King of slot machines”, was allegedly responsible for hundreds of gambling stores, each generating millions of euros. Authorities in Italy have reason to believe that Mr.Bacchi was utilising companies based in Malta in order to launder money made by the mafia from illegal activities, including drug trafficking, extortion, and others.

For this reason, the gaming watchdog has expressed concern that the Italian mafia has made use of Malta as a money laundering medium, through suspicious gaming companies registered in Malta.



MGA (Malta Gaming Authority): Challenges and Opportunities

For many years now, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has arguably been the world’s pre-eminent remote gaming jurisdiction, with little or no competition from bigger countries who took far longer to recognise the value inherent in the industry. In particular, Malta has become the mainstay jurisdiction with regard to licensing and regulation in ‘grey’ gaming markets, such as Australia and Canada, where players are not prevented from participating in online gaming even though operators are barred from running sites from within those countries’ borders.

Although there are other licensing regimes, such as Gibraltar, Belize and Alderney, a site accredited and regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority generally earns the greatest respect and trust from players, and they see it as being a well-organised body that effectively oversees the fair and secure operation of gaming sites. In essence, Malta has for some time been virtually the only game in town.

However, there have been significant challenges posed to the MGA’s position, not least by the UK’s decision to become a ‘white’ market where online gaming is fully regulated through the auspices of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). Now, operators of white listed casino sites are required to be regulated by the UKGC if they want to advertise and provide services to UK players, and a point of consumption tax is paid by the operator on every wager.

This development has not, however, significantly impacted on the reputation of the MGA’s licensing regime, as UK-based operators who continue to operate in grey markets still seek and retain Maltese licences. Currently, there are more than 500 MGA licences held by remote gaming operators from around the world and their value continues to be recognised globally.

Nevertheless, in order to retain its pre-eminent position within the remote gaming industry, the MGA has been seeking to expand and diversify its offerings, and is looking to innovate in a number of areas.

Most notably, the MGA is seeking to expand into the realm of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and cryptocurrencies, through allowing operators with its licences to offer online gaming based on DLT and to accept payments using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Etheruem.

Such a move is not without potential challenges for the MGA. In a White Paper issued in July 2017, the authority noted that before it can licence DLT and cryptocurrency operators with confidence, it needs to ensure that proper protocols are in place to protect players and that security measures are implemented so as to prevent money laundering and the funding of terrorism. This is deemed necessary so that a move towards accepting new technologies and emerging currencies will not in any way compromise the MGA’s reputation and international standing.

Therefore, the MGA is currently establishing a ‘test and learn’ live environment in which cryptocurrencies can be used for gaming, and is also exploring how it might draw up and enact a regulatory regime applicable to remote gaming sites implementing DLT. Industry observers have noted rapidly growing interest in the use of cryptocurrencies at remote gambling sites, fuelled by the spectacular rise in value of Bitcoin and others in 2017, and so the MGA has clearly recognised this as a sector in which it needs to be an active, if not leading, participant in the future.

This represents the sort of forward thinking that has seen Malta lead the way and remain at the forefront of regulated remote gaming for so long. From the outset, it recognised that prohibition was not the answer, but rather that a better solution was to create safe and secure gaming environments in which operators were regulated and controls were in place to ensure that players were treated responsibly and games operated fairly. Likewise, the MGA has recognised that as cryptocurrencies gain more widespread acceptance, it make sense to ensure that players using Bitcoin are able to benefit from the same sort of assurances that players using traditional currencies have always enjoyed.

Therefore, it would seem that despite the challenges posed by the UK and other jurisdictions becoming regulated white markets, Malta looks set to stay ahead of the game, and will continue to be a respected and valued regulator as remote gaming moves into its next phase.


Media Articles Brought Reactions from MGA

The Malta Gaming Authority made references to articles published by Times of Malta

The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has reacted to two articles published by Times of Malta in December. The first article with the headline «Mafia planned to infiltrate Malta gaming companies — Italian police in Palermo raids» was  published on 15th December, 2017. The second article appeared in Times of Malta on the 24th of December, 2017, with a headline “Hillman put on State payroll two weeks after election – Malta Gaming Authority denied he was given consultancy job”.

«The MGA objects to the articles in question which contain factual inaccuracies, speculation, untruths and a misleading portrayal of the Malta Gaming Authority and the way it operates» as stated by MGA.

The reaction from Malta Gaming Authority followed:

1) ‘Mafia planned to infiltrate Malta gaming companies – Italian police in Palermo raids’ published on 15 December 2017:

“The Malta Gaming Authority takes exception to such a speculative and senseless article which one can only conclude that it is intended solely to harm Malta’s reputation as a gaming jurisdiction of excellence. If such alleged plans to relocate underground activities to Malta were true (as reported in the article), such pans would have likely failed from a “fit and properness” standpoint since our rigorous due diligence procedures, criminal probity checks, investigations and intelligence gathering activities when on-boarding new licensees but also our ongoing supervisory processes are of a high standard and would have immediately red flagged any such attempts”

1) ‘Hillman put on State payroll two weeks after election – Malta Gaming Authority denied he was given consultancy job’ published on 24 December 2017:

“The article in question contains untruths and factual inaccuracies which are listed hereunder:

  • Mr Hillman was engaged by the MGA with effect from 3 July 2017. Contract was signed on 28 June after all the relevant approvals were received in line with public procurement procedures. The MGA was correct (on 21 June 2017) in stating that Mr Hillman was not doing consultancy work for the MGA when the Times of Malta correspondent asked the question;

  • The MGA received no instructions whatsoever from the OPM to engage Mr Hillman. Any suggestions to this effect are purely speculative and totally untrue. All MGA consultancy engagements including Mr Hillman’s are based on the Authority’s business requirements, ongoing projects and strategic objectives and selection is based on competences of the individual(s) or firms concerned;

  • As far as is publicly available, Mr Hillman was investigated by The Times of Malta through a board of inquiry set up for that purpose and no wrongdoing on his part was found so much so that the Times of Malta reached an amicable solution to the dispute.”


MGA Plans A Cryptocurrency Legalisation At Online Casinos

Malta’s government has advanced its plans for a cryptocurrency legalisation  and allow the usage of so called cryptocurrencies, as for example Bitcoins at online casinos.

To effectively regulate the digital currency in gaming, a detailed technical study was already commissioned by the MGA (Malta Gaming Authority), which is in charge of supervising the offline as well as the online casinos operations in Malta.

Joseph Cushier the Executive Chairman of MGA, is convinced that cryptocurrencies and Blockchain technologies are rising innovations. Therefore, they want to determine carefully which opportunities but also which potential risks they hold if they are adapted to the gaming industry.

Cuschieri indicates: “The shape and form of the framework governing cryptocurrencies will be announced in due course and once the risk assessment is carried out. Once the results of the study are evaluated, the MGA will make its position official on how cryptocurrencies will be adopted.”

The Maltese government is convinced by the potential and the opportunities Blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies hold. Therefore, they intend to boost their development in the country aggressively. Aim is to position Malta as one of the leading users of digital currencies and Blockchain worldwide.

During the launch of the government’s Blockchain strategy, in April 2017, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stated, that the country should be one of the first to adopt Blockchain.

During the launch Muscat said: “We must be on the frontline in embracing this crucial innovation, and we cannot just wait for others to take action and copy them. We must be the ones that others copy.”

Silvio Schembri, the Digital Economy Parliamentary Secretary, has announced that, in order to attract Blockchain companies to the current project, the Maltese government is already committed to introduce the ledger technology to the public.

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Journey of Ikibu continues in Germany

The online casino launches its German site on September 1st. The improvement shows the iGaming world that the young casino keeps on its expansion throughout Europe. German will be the fifth language to be live on Ikibu, alongside English, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish.

“The German site has been one of our main projects for 2017”, states Ikibu’s CEO, Rafael Rios. “Our goal is to reach the maximum number of countries and to make the user experience smoother for all players. Germany is the most populated country in the European Union so it made sense to give all the German players the option to enjoy the Casino Journey in their native language”, declares Rios.
Players will not be the only ones benefitting from this feature. The other main group will be the affiliates. “Being live in German is something many affiliates have been anxiously waiting for”, says
Julian Kunimine, Head of Affiliates. “Many of them have already congratulated us for the German launch and are eager to promote us in Germany. It is one of the biggest markets you can operate in and, although we already have some presence in Germany, this dedicated launch will make us reach a higher number of potential players”, affirms Kunimine.

Less than a year after its creation, Ikibu has positioned itself strongly within the iGaming industry. Its unique gamification system has been widely praised by both players and affiliates. Ikibu is backed by an exceptionally original design, which has thousands of fans among the British and Scandinavian markets. Now that the site is going live in German, Ikibu is moving towards reaching their goal: being the reference for an online casino in Northern Europe. In Germany, as in the rest of European countries, Ikibu will be regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority. The Maltese license guarantees that the casino acts in accordance with the European authorities and that the players’ data will not be used for any other purposes than approved operating procedures for a gambling institution.

In addition to the German site launch, further improvements will be introduced the upcoming months. During 2017 Ikibu will also upgrade their Shop. The new Shop is going through a structural redesign which will make it more attractive to players by improving the UX. With the renewed face, Ikibu strongly believes that the Seed Trade System will establish itself as the ultimate form of casino currency. And that’s not all. The Ikibu Races, the unique head-to-head competitions between players, will also experience an improvement. In the next months, the online casino will launch their innovative and exciting Spark-Races, an upgrade that “will revolutionize the social casino competitions”.

These series of events only include some of the new launches that their players will get to see as Ikibu continues enhancing the Casino Journey. “Ikibu is living a great 2017, but we feel confident that we are looking forward to an even greater 2018”, concludes Rios.

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Malta gearing up for blockchain revolution

The Maltese government has started revealing details of an ambitious plan to turn the island into one of the first countries in the world to embrace the blockchain technology.

iGaming, Digital Economy Junior Minister Silvio Schembri said that the plans are twofold – for blockchain to be rolled out across the board in the public sector and for Malta to become a hub for international companies that operate on the technology.

“We already have all the elements in place to embrace blockchain – a gaming sector and a robust gaming authority, a strong financial services sector, a reliable ICT infrastructure, an attractive taxation system, and a flexible and pro-business government,” he said in an interview with MT.

“We’ve heard enough about the opportunities posed by blockchain and it’s now time to put words into action to create new opportunities for both citizens and the economy. It’s my priority to turn this vision into a reality.”

The plan is to implement blockchain across the public sector, most notably in the Lands Registry – which will be made public – and the national health registries.

Hon. Schembri added that a project to promote blockchain in the education sector will also be announced by the education ministry in the coming days.
has said it is his priority to pioneer Malta into embracing blockchain.


Parliamentary Secretary Hon. Silvio Schembri, responsible for the Government’s new Blockchain policy

‘Blockchain is the new iGaming’ 

On a macro-level, Schembri said the government plans to turn Malta into a hub for businesses that operate on blockchain, in a similar fashion as it had attracted iGaming companies.

These will include companies that offer services in smart contracts, which use blockchain technology to verify and enforce business contracts quickly and in a manner that is non-tamperable – essentially cutting out the lawyers.

To this end, a new authority will be set up to regulate the new industry and to hand out licences to them as the Malta Gaming Authority does to gaming companies.

As with iGaming, the aim will be for these companies to boost the Maltese economy through taxes, licence fees, and economic consumption of their Malta-based employees.

“There are many of these companies out there who are itching to have a proper licence under which to operate, and we could be the first in Europe – if not the world – to provide them,” Schembri said. “Some oil companies are interested in shifting to blockchain – can you imagine how much money we can earn through taxation if they register in Malta?”

He added that Malta would have an edge in attracting these companies because the Labour government is particularly business-friendly – ministers and even the Prime Minister often agree to meet up with businesspeople only a few days after receiving an e-mail request.

“This government is very accessible and it doesn’t shy away from taking decisions, even controversial ones, if they are in the country’s best interests.”

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Sky Betting and Gaming applies for local licence

Sky Betting and Gaming, one of the UK’s leading online bookmakers, has applied for a sports betting licence in Malta.It is the biggest online player by customer numbers in the UK market.

Sky betting & Gaming

Headquartered in Leeds and led by chief executive Richard Flint, Sky Betting & Gaming was formed in 2001 and now has a team of 1,200 employees.

It has offices in Sheffield, London, Rome and Munich, recently expanded into Italy and has plans to do the same in Germany soon.

Sky Betting & Gaming today operates five major online products – Bet, Vegas, Casino, Poker, and Bingo – as well as leading sports affiliate Oddschecker. Sky Betting and Gaming was recently valued at £800million.

The Gaming Authority has received 59 applications from gaming companies in the first four months of the year and approved 36 of them.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had yesterday hinted at gaming application, telling journalists that a “household name” in the gaming sector was seeking to relocate to Malta.

Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat


LCB on Maltese approach to gambling regulation

For all its advantages, gambling online can be a dangerous endeavor. In an age when our favorite casino games are only a click away, it is hard to believe that such a wide-spread phenomenon is still lacking a global legal framework to protect both operators and consumers. Instead, we find ourselves caught in a confusing whirlwind of constant changes, where we’re never really sure where we stand in legal terms. Regulations differ from country to country, from one venue to another, and often stand opposed to each other, complicating matters even further. Players quickly learn that to pass unscathed in this dynamic environment; there are safety measures to be taken first.

The first thing most of us look for in a casino is an appropriate license issued by an established authority. A valid permit should not be easy to come by nor to keep, so we take it as an indicator of a trustworthy company. There exist many licensing jurisdictions in the world today, a fact that poses another dilemma for both players and the companies seeking to operate a gaming site: which of them is of the highest merit?

There is no absolute answer to this question – all governing institutions have certain advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the kind of assurance they provide. One of the oldest and best known legislative establishments is the Malta Gaming Authority.

Malta was the first of the EU member states to regulate gambling on the Internet. Looking for ways to boost its economic growth, the country recognized the potential of the increasingly popular remote gaming and chose to cultivate this entertainment branch by giving the sector a set of necessary control measures. The framework implemented when the industry as a whole lacked coherent regulations, and as such, it’s considered a standard today. Malta is among the world’s largest and most popular jurisdictions, having issued licenses to more than 200 operators since its conception.

Simplified Application Procedures

The MGA used to grant multiple types of licenses relating to different gaming categories and platforms. Operators who wanted to run casino games, betting on sports and poker all within the same website, as well as on desktop and mobile, had to acquire a permission for each of these, making the procedures overly long and complicated. It was improved upon in 2004 when the legislation was corrected to simplify the application processes. In this respect, the license classes that the MGA now awards are closer in type to most other jurisdictions.

Low cost

International companies are attracted to Malta due to the affordable corporate and income taxes. Annual fees vary depending on the type and number of licenses granted, but a maximum gaming tax does not exceed €460,000. While some others, like Curacao, charge nothing whatsoever, the MGA fees can still be considered competitive.

Fair Conditions

The requirements and protocols that the MGA imposes on applicants and license holders are quite rigorous but fair. Regarding the difficulty of obtaining approval, they can be considered middle ground between the strictest and the most lenient that exist today. Companies must be, at least in part, physically located in Malta. Solid reputation and the outline of a business plan are expected of all applicants. To run a proper business, ensure player protection and prevent money laundering, casinos must maintain financial records and monthly reports of player balances, follow data security protocols and endorse responsible gaming. One notable condition, not all jurisdictions require is the certification of fairness obtained six months prior – this ensures the software is using random number generators to produce the outcomes of the games. Furthermore, in a case of any changes to the already certified software, the company must be audited again.

Malta is also the only governing body to keep track of online casinos that falsely claim to hold their licenses – the list is published and updated accordingly on the official website.

Effective Support Functions are in the Works

In recent times, the MGA has been focusing on improving the laws relating to player support and protection. This segment criticized in the past as inadequate has the jurisdiction promising higher quality services to match those offered to operators. A particular emphasis is given to support options directly with authority itself, and to this end, they have recently implemented a live chat function on the website.

In addition to monthly audits of player funds, licensed casinos ensure all customers are of legal age and have the options of self-limitation, self-exclusion and access to the Responsible Gaming Foundation to promote responsible gambling and helping risk players.

Due to the experience, longevity, stringency and the fact that many established casinos operate under its supervision, Malta has earned a reputable status in the industry. Holding a strong position as one of the most attractive European-based regulators, it remains committed to enhancing fraud prevention, as well as consumer support.

Have you attended SiGMA last year? Relive the highlights from our last show and stay tuned for this year’s SiGMA. Watch out for what we’re branding as the ‘iGaming Village’ this year.