93 new licences issued to gaming operators in 2018, states MGA Annual Report

Sarah Micallef 3rd July 2019

The Authority received 209 applications for a licence last year, of which eight were rejected and the remaining still under review.

During 2018, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) received 209 applications for a licence and issued 93 licences to gaming operators, with the remaining ones still going through the acceptance process. A total of eight licence applications were rejected during the same year.

This was published in the MGA’s Annual Report and Financial Statements for the financial year ending 31 December 2018, which provides an overview of the activities and work performed, and a summary of the performance of the local gaming industry, as well as a medium-term outlook into the future.

The Annual Report also looks at 2019 and beyond, with the MGA continuing to reinforce its compliance, risk and enforcement functions to ensure that it is equipped to achieve the regulatory objectives which the law requires it to pursue.

Apart from the new license applications, key highlights from the Annual Report include the issuing of the Remote Gaming Implementing Procedures – Part II by the MGA and the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU). Throughout the year, both Authorities participated in cooperative initiatives to strengthen the oversight of the gaming sector. Throughout 2018, the MGA also conducted a total of 33 AML/CFT full-scope examinations, eight of which were conducted jointly with the FIAU. 

The Report also states that during 2018, the Authority issued 16 Notices of Reprimand and 73 Notices of Breach, suspended four licences and cancelled another eight. In addition, a total of 139 administrative fines were imposed on operators following various regulatory breache.

Meanwhile, the MGA’s Fit & Proper Committee deemed 63 individuals or companies to be unsuitable for a licence, or for a significant role in a licensee, as the case may be. In particular, 37 of these were related to individuals or companies considered as not having satisfied the integrity and reputation pillars of the MGA’s fit and proper criteria due to possible connections to money laundering or funding of terrorism. In addition, around 2,000 criminal probity screenings were conducted during the course of 2018. 

In 2018, the Authority set up a Commercial Communications Committee as required in terms of the new regulatory framework, ensuring due process in the assessment of regulatory breaches stemming from the requirements relating to commercial communications. During the year, a total of 14 cases were evaluated, out of which seven decisions determined that there had been a breach of the regulations.

During the year under review, the MGA also continued its digitisation efforts, including further updates to the Licensee Relationship Management System to cater for the submission of the Monthly Licence and Compliance Contribution Report. The Report maintains that additional functionalities will be added on the portal throughout 2019; and finally, the Authority also conducted and published the results of two major surveys in 2018. The areas analysed by the MGA included the skills gap in the gaming industry and the threats and opportunities associated with the consumption of gambling and gaming services by Maltese residents. 

In publishing this report, Heathcliff Farrugia, Chief Executive Officer of the Malta Gaming Authority, stated that: “2018 was a remarkable year for the Authority, predominantly because of the coming into force of the new law on the 1 August 2018. The new framework strengthened the MGA’s supervisory role, specifically in the areas of compliance and enforcement, enabling it to focus efforts on areas which present a higher risk profile.”

“In 2019, the MGA’s focus will be that of consolidating what has been built so far, and continue building on its regulatory powers, to ensure holistic regulatory oversight focusing on the integrity of market participants and the protection of consumers, whilst also embracing technological innovation without prejudicing the attainment of its regulatory objectives,” he said.

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