An unprecedented anti-Mafia investigation by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) into all its Italian licensees has resulted in three companies “unilaterally terminating their own licenses,” according to Malta Today.

Italian police embarrass Malta Gaming Authority

Italian anti-Mafia police have caused the Malta Gaming Authority continual embarrassment over its failure to root out bad apples among its licensees. But the regulator’s new pro-active approach seems to be working. (Image: The Richest)

Betent.com (Betent Group Ltd), Potterbet (Potter Mrc Ltd) and Giodani (Giodani Limited) all voluntarily surrendered their licenses for unknown reasons, apparently unable to stand the heat of an MGA request for information.

The MGA confirmed it had last week cancelled the license of another operator, LB Casino Ltd, the parent company of Leaderbet. Sources who spoke to Malta Today said LB Casino had been using its Malta operations to launder money derived from criminal activities in Italy.

It is now licensed in Curacao and continues to run its operations as though nothing had happened.

MGA Embarrassment

The MGA has been left red-faced by a string of Italian police investigations that have exposed Malta-licensed companies as being Mafia-connected.

It was prompted to launch its own licensing investigation following the arrest in early February of so-called “King of Betting” Benedetto Bacchi, whose Phoenix International Ltd was linked to 700 illegal betting shops that operated in partnership with the Palermo Cosa Nostra. Phoenix and its subsidiary B2875 were both Malta licensees.

Bacchi’s ‘shops’ were officially registered as ‘data transmission centers,’ and used terminals that linked to online gambling sites including B2875.com, Bsport24.com and B28sport.com, which were all owned by Phoenix International.

According to Italian police, the operation generated around €1 million ($1.24 million) in profits each month, a large chunk of which was distributed among various Mafia families in Palermo.

It was the fourth such incident in the last 30 months and severely damaging to the reputation of the regulator of one of the world’s foremost online gambling hubs.

Defended in Parliament

Several weeks ago, questions were asked in the Maltese parliament regarding the effectiveness of MGA regulations. Partit Demokratiku MP Godfrey Farrugia accused the regulator of persistent failures of due diligence.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat responded that “among the (new) initiatives undertaken by the Authority are the strengthening of the due diligence department through increased human and technical resources.”

He added there had also been “changes to the due diligence process that include increased liaison with international agencies for gathering intelligence on individuals and companies and more specialized training.”

“It has also invested in the continuous monitoring of operators through sporadic independent audits, as well as specific checks against money laundering and terrorist financing,” he added.