The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has proposed major reforms to the legal framework surrounding the island country’s gambling industry, with the goal of decreasing unnecessary regulatory burdens.

Malta Gaming Authority legislation overhaul

Brass at the Malta Gaming Authority say the complex licensing process is counterintuitive to properly regulating gambling operators. (Image: Malta Gaming Authority)

Located in the Mediterranean Sea south of Sicily, Malta is one of the world’s most gambling-friendly nations. A popular remote gaming licensing jurisdiction due to the country’s low tax rate and inclusion in the European Union (EU), regulators want to make it even more appealing. A gaming license in Malta allows online casino companies to operate across the 28-member EU.

In a white paper released this week, the MGA opines that the country should replace its existing laws in favor of a new regulatory framework titled the “Gaming Act.” The comprehensive law would eliminate the multi-licensing system presently in place with just two different types of licensing classes, business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B).

Currently, gaming companies must obtain various licenses. For instance, a full internet casino operator needs an online gambling permit, online poker license (peer-to-peer), and sports betting authorization.

Some companies have as many as 13 different licenses. To date, the MGA has issued over 500 gaming licenses. The authority argues less licenses will allow the agency to better focus on disrupting money laundering and other illegal activity.

Along with iGaming, Malta is home to four land-based casinos.

Gaming Act Overhaul

In addition to reducing the number of licenses required to operate in Malta, the MGA is proposing that B2B companies be exempt from paying taxes, “thus increasing Malta’s competitiveness as a hub for these service providers.” The tax-free opportunity is seen as a way to grow jobs on the island.

The white paper also calls for “an objective-based rather than excessively prescriptive regulatory approach.”

The agency believes that will allow it to dedicate its resources more effectively. Specifically, the MGA says it should be able to focus its efforts on operators that present a “higher risk profile” than more reputable companies.

Many of iGaming’s most prominent companies are licensed in Malta, including Rational Group, parent to PokerStars, Betfair, bwin.party, and Net Entertainment.

But so are dozens of lesser-known operators, companies that are led by persons whose pasts aren’t so clearly documented.

Regulatory Failure

The MGA’s white paper might be in response to recent accusations that the agency is inadequately monitoring its licensees.

Valery Antanasov, a whistleblower who worked at the MGA, told Reuters in May that the agency was doing little to enforce its anti-money laundering protections. Antanasov said lax financial oversight has created “conditions that allow suspicious financial operations, money laundering and other criminal practices.”

Italian federal prosecutor Nicola Gratteri believes Antanasov’s claims. Gratteri is investigating an online gambling network that was licensed through Malta that he believes is linked to the mafia, but says the island country isn’t cooperating in aiding in the probe.

“There is something that doesn’t add up on the legislative level or at the level of controls,” Gratteri opined last month.