Interview: CEO of The Malta Gaming Authority had the opportunity to ask the CEO of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), Mr Heathcliff Farrugia, a few questions about the gaming industry, including the challenges of working in the sector and encouraging responsible gambling.

CEO of the Malta Gaming Authority
CEO of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), Mr Heathcliff Farrugia. Credit: MGA

MGA recently launched new advertising standards for operators. What is the main reason behind this and what differences do you expect to see?

The MGA published the guidelines with the intention of sharing the manner in which it interprets the word of the law, most notably by providing practical examples of commercial communications that the MGA considers as falling both inside and outside the parameters of the law, namely the Commercial Communications Regulations (S.L. 583.09).

As can be viewed within the Commercial Communications Committee decisions, the MGA has taken action on numerous complaints forwarded to it since the law has come into force. In the great majority of cases, operators were quick to remedy the breach.

Upon an internal analysis of the operators’ feedback, the MGA considered it beneficial to good-willed operators to have a documentation of the Committee’s interpretation of the applicable legal requirements. Such guidance is intended to provide greater clarity to operators that strive to advertise their products and services in a lawful, fair and responsible manner.

What was the main reason behind your move from Vodafone to the MGA?

After having spent over 13 years in the telecoms industry, having occupied various management positions, an opportunity to move to the MGA had arisen, and together with my family (at the time I was living in Milan working with Vodafone Italy), we evaluated the opportunity and decided to accept. Prior to becoming CEO of the MGA, I spent more than four years with the regulator, occupying the roles of COO (Chief Operating Officer), and CRO (Chief Regulatory Officer), respectively.

What is MGA doing innovatively that is different to its competitors?

As regulators of this industry, we do not feel we are in competition with others. Our role is primarily that of ensuring that companies in possession of an MGA licence are compliant with the laws and regulations governing this industry, ensuring gaming is fair and transparent, kept free from crime and protecting the vulnerable players.

What are the main challenges you face in the Maltese gaming sector?

This industry is maturing, not only in Malta, and this brings about a number of challenges. In 2018, Malta introduced a new gaming law which widened the regulatory powers of the MGA, giving it more tools to strengthen the way it supervised the industry. This was coupled with the transposition of EU’s 4AMLD into Maltese law, also in 2018.

These two legal instruments have undoubtedly made it more challenging for the industry, however, we believe they are critical in ensuring the proper functioning of the whole ecosystem.

What do you think about the gaming industry in general?

Like other industries, the gaming industry has its strengths and weaknesses, however, the balance of these can only be achieved through effective and proper regulation.

How do you encourage responsible gambling?

MGA licensees are obliged to offer their gaming service to consumers in a manner which is conducive to responsible gaming. For example, licensees must offer players the possibility of setting limits on their gaming activity on registration, or immediately upon first login, and they must offer players the facility of self-determining whether they have a gambling problem or not.

The MGA also supports, in many ways, responsible gaming campaigns undertaken by the industry itself. We are also planning education campaigns on this front.

Thank you, Mr Farrugia, for you time. We look forward to seeing the MGA’s educational campaigns on responsible gambling!