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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.

 

Competition and Markets Authority Changing Bonus Offers Regulations in the UK

Playtech, William Hill and Ladbrokes Committed to Change their Bonus Strategies

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have announced that some terms used for bonus offers are “likely to be unfair, in breach of consumer protection law, and could mislead consumers” and are therefore not appropriate.

Several operators of the UK Gambling market were affected by this statement. The CMA plans to implement stricter rules which will come to force before February 28, 2018.

According to the CMA, Playtech, William Hill and Ladbrokes have committed to change.
This implies changing their bonus strategies, since players will not have to play multiple times in order to withdraw money.
Secondly, restrictions regarding gameplay must be stated clearly and operators have to have defined terms to confiscate players’ money. And finally, players can not be forced by operators to take place in publicity.

Sarah Gardner, executive director at the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) celebrated the announcement, “real progress in making gambling fairer and safer for customers will be made.” Further, she urged operators to comply with the CMA’s demands on time.

 

Play It Safe: Five UK Casinos at Risk as Regulators Begin Crackdown

Five online casino companies in the UK could lose their licence to operate

One of the highest items on the agenda of all gambling regulators is combating money laundering, and it is this that has caused the UK Gambling Commission to investigate and review the licences of a number of operators in the UK market. In a statement made on the ongoing investigation recently, the UKGC claimed that there were a total of 17 operators under investigation and that it was considering reviewing and potentially revoking the licences of five of those.

The review comes on the back of a letter sent out by the UKGC to all operators outlining its expectations regarding anti-money laundering practices and social responsibility. It has not been made clear which operators are under investigation, nor which one may face a license revocation or review.

What is the UK Gambling Commission?

The UKGC, as it is commonly called, is the regulatory body in charge of issuing all iGaming licences for operators targeting the UK market. It effectively sets the rules and enforces them. The UKGC has been taking a much tougher stance across a range of issues in recent times, including money laundering, social responsibility, and the need to protect problem gamblers.

In 2017, a UKGC investigation led to 888 casino being fined a record of £7.8 million due to the inadequacy of its protections for problem gamblers. The commission warned of tougher regulations across the industry with the potential for new regulations for affiliates. This caused Skybet to cease all affiliate marketing immediately.

Sarah Harrison, chief executive of the commission, has reiterated its commitment to keeping crime out of gambling and making the broader industry safer for players. She said the commision would be ‘relentless’ in its mission. Players who are concerned with finding a trustworthy online casino can use a respected casino comparison site, newonline-casino.com to get expert reviews before making a selection.

What Does This Mean for UK iGaming Operators?

It certainly means a much stricter environment in which operators will have to comply fully with regulations, with little room for error. As the 888 fine last year indicated, the commission means business and is taking a zero tolerance approach to any operator, no matter how big, found to be shirking its responsibilities.

That said, there is widespread support for the measures from most operators as they will help maintain the integrity and reputation of the UK gambling industry as a whole.

How Will These Measures Affect Players?

Players will benefit most from regulatory crackdowns, which are designed to keep them safe and keep the industry shielded from unscrupulous practices. While money laundering may seem far removed from the average player’s experience, it is all part and parcel of a larger drive to clean up the image of the online gambling market in the UK. Ultimately, players can interpret these types of investigation as a positive development.

 

Regulatory Changes in the UK iGaming Sector by the UK Gambling Commission

How will the UK online gaming industry be affected by the new regulatory changes?

Over the past decade the online gaming industry in the UK has grown rapidly. This extensive growth is also represented in statistics of the UK Gambling Commission.

Since 2009 when the regulator released its first financial report, online betting and gambling series have extended their generated amount from £817 million up to an amount of £4.5 billion in the period from 2015 to 2016. Thus, the iGaming sector is the biggest one the in UK gambling industry and is expected to grow even further.

Last year, the gaming industry in the UK has been subject of extensive media coverage. This was due to the Government’s release of its gambling review last October which focused on the iGaming and the market regulation.

Concerns were raised that the sector has extended to a level that demands extra, more strict regulations. Especially for operators who obeyed existing rules, high sanctions were imposed. Particularly for services and products which can lead to addiction or other mental health issues, proper regulations are necessary.

A number of fines was imposed by the UK Gambling Commission in the past months. They include, for example, seven-figure ones to operators which are not providing their clients with socially responsible services and also for not promoting these in a responsible way as in using advertising codes or principles.

Operators addressing the market in the UK are required to stick to these principles. They are obliged to follow the CAP Code of the Advertising Standards Authority as well as the Licence conditions and codes of practice by the UK Gambling Commission.

 

Regulatory Conference at SiGMA 2017

 

All iGaming operators need to assure that the marketing of their brand is executed in a legal manner on all available mediums, also including their affiliate partners. Especially since affiliated marketing has risen to a key element for operators to reach more players. The recent changes in the regulators also affect them.

Overall, operators should be open and transparent when advertising their products. They need to show that they realise both the benefits and the risks of their offering.

But also several critics have risen their voice and expressed their concerns about the future of the UK online gambling industry. They are concerned that the market is over-regulated and that the new regulations could have an impact on the market’s growth.

Players and operators could be repulsed by the rules and it could even increase the black-market activities. Which would further reduce the tax incomes from the industry.

UKGC Makes Bitcoin Payments Available to Online Licensees

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has given online licensees the green light for digital currencies such as Bitcoin to be accepted payment methods.

Following a series of consultations with licensees and industry stakeholders, the UKGC released its updated License Conditions and Codes or Practice (LCCP); regulations which are set to take effect on October 31st 2016.

In the LCCP, Section 5.1 addresses “cash and cash equivalents, payment methods and services.” Licensees are told that they are to “implement appropriate policies and procedures concerning the usage of cash and cash equivalents by customers.” These cash and cash equivalents include bankers, drafts, cheques and debit cards, as well as digital currencies.

The intention behind this is to reduce the risk of money laundering activity and to “provide assurance that gambling activities are being conducted in a manner which promotes licensing objectives.”

Licensees were advised that they need to take into account any applicable learning or guidelines issued by the UKGC from time to time.

Quoting CEO Sarah Harrison, the UKGC’s annual report last month said that digital currencies were among the regulator’s areas of “continuing future focus”, but Harrison gave no specifics on what that might entail.

The acceptance of Bitcoin by UKGC, a high-profile body, could help to stimulate public acceptance of alternative currencies. The only jurisdiction to date that has allowed online gambling licensees free reign to accept the Bitcoin as payment is that of Curacao.

Momentum seems to be increasing, however, as in May, Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission proposed allowance of its online licensees to accept deposits made in “convertible virtual currencies.” The Malta Gaming Authority also reportedly held a meeting recently on this very subject.

A year ago, the UKGC wrote to emphasise that any Bitcoin gambling operators wishing to serve the UK market will still require a UK license. It also hinted at its upcoming policy adjustments by saying that the form of currency is “almost irrelevant”, as long as licensed operators could demonstrate that “crime is kept out of gambling and consumers are protected.”

BetConstruct Plans to Challenge the UK Market Status Quo

BetConstruct, an award-winning developer and provider of online and land-based betting and gaming solutions, has said that it is going to challenge the status quo in the UK supply chain now that the UK Gambling Commission has granted it a Combined Remote Operating License.

Vale Baloulian, CEO of BetConstruct, said: “The Combined Remote Operating License by the UK Gambling Commission widens the path for BetConstruct to one of the most important gaming and betting markets – the United Kingdom. Although this market is mature and somewhat saturated, we believe what BetConstruct has to offer is quite unique and can be the differentiator the operators are looking for.

“Being headquartered in the UK, we have studied this market for a long time now. We look forward to challenging the status quo there with the new technologies and services we have developed in recent years.”

This license adds to BetConstruct’s other licenses granted by the UK Gambling Commission and Malta Gambling Authority, as well as other jurisdictions that allow BetConstruct to help its partners to meet necessary requirements to operate in different regions.

The UK regulator has just announced that Tim Miller will be joining as Executive Director with oversight of corporate affairs, stakeholder engagement, and the evidence and analysis team. Currently, Miller is the Head of Policy and Communications at the Local Government Ombudsman and is to join the Commission at the end of August.

Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, commented: “I am delighted to welcome Tim to the Gambling Commission leadership team. He brings excellent communications, policy and research expertise to the Commission’s vital work to help keep gambling fair, safe and free from crime.”

Meanwhile, the Commission has announced that, trading as Blue Riband Bet, the Blue Riband Gaming and Leisure Limited is no longer operating and has surrendered its operating license and personal management licenses. The boutique bookmaker had been overseen by a previous management team from Marathonbet.

BetConstruct will be one of the exhibitors showcasing at SiGMA16, Malta’s biggest upcoming gaming event of the year. If you are interested in joining this iGaming summit in November and seeing BetConstruct along with other exhibitors, click here to register.

UK Gambling Commission to review online poker regulations

The UK Gambling Commission has announced its plans to analyse online poker regulations. In particular, the Commission will examine if using third-party software can effect on cheating incidents.

“Regulations governing online poker where players play against each other – as opposed to playing the operator – are being reviewed” – says the announcement placed on the commissions’s website.

Firstly, the UK Gambling Commission will review the data coming from companies licensed within the authority, to look for unwanted software, such as automated poker robots and other harmful third-party software.

“We want this information in order to assess whether the current controls in Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice and the Remote Gambling and Software Technical Standards are sufficient to ensure online poker is crime free, fair and open, and children and vulnerable people are protected,” the authority wrote in its release.

The outcome of the planned research will be used to “help shape a future formal consultation on remote technical standards,” commented Gambling Commission’s spokesman.

“We are also considering the impact of game integrity issues and using the opportunity to canvass views more generally,” the spokesman said.