• Tue. Oct 3rd, 2023

Malta May Reconsider Giving Gaming Operators Legal Protection Against Lawsuits

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Posted on: August 24, 2023, 08:13h. 

Last updated on: August 24, 2023, 08:13h.

There's a chance might be feeling the heat from its recent decision to blanket licensed there with protections. It now appears that the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is considering joining the Council of Europe's Macolin Convention, which is a complete about-face from its recent position.

A view of Malta and Grand Harbour
A view of Malta and Grand Harbour. The Malta Gaming Authority might its approach to how it oversees licensed operators. (Image: Pinterest)

The Macolin Convention, which the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has deliberately sidestepped since 2014, has become the center of a debate following the gaming regulator's admission. If the MGA decides to join, it would bring about a transformative alteration in Malta's approach to what defines a legal or illegal sportsbook.

There's no definitive announcement about a pending change or how it might affect the recent approval of Bill 55. That legislation gave gaming operators holding a Malta license a virtual free pass to avoid prosecution from foreign .

Malta Gaming Sentiment Remains Fluid

Sports betting sites licensed under the MGA can, under the current regime, allow access to players from countries where gambling is illegal. Rather than imposing a legal ban, it's left to the players to determine whether they are accessing an illegal platform under their country's laws.

These platforms would be classified as illegal under the terms of the Macolin Convention. As such, should the MGA join, the operators would be held responsible for any litigious actions instigated in those users' countries.

Despite its established opposition to joining the Macolin Convention, gaming advisors continued to prod the Maltese government to change its mind. This became a bigger deal in 2021, when joining it was viewed as a way to appease the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The goal at the time was to ensure Malta could avoid the FATF's grey list. It didn't work, however, but the country only stayed on the list for one year.

The MGA seems to be taking seriously the possible adoption of the Macolin Convention. It reportedly hired a law firm, Van Bael & Bellis, to explore the pros and cons of joining.

Bill 55 has been the source of a lot of friction since it was introduced. The European Council has spoken out against it and the European Commission is going to explore whether or not it's legal under European Union (EU) laws.

Germany's Joint Gaming Authority (GGL, for its German acronym) isn't happy about it, either. The gaming regulator is confident it violates EU regulations on at least one level.

Germany and Austria have been at the center of various lawsuits pitting users or states against operators. Recently, they have sought to take their fights to Malta directly to try to find a resolution. Bill 55 would prevent that.

The Macolin Convention Tries to Clean Up Sports

The Macolin Convention first appeared in September 2014. Its primary goal was to clean up sports and try to prevent match-fixing.

The European Council describes it as the “only rule of international law on the manipulation of sports competitions.” After years of massaging the language, the agreement was ultimately ratified in 2019.

Taking the lead were France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and a few other countries. Since then, a total of 32 European countries have signed on.

Although the compact began as an answer to crooks manipulating sports games, it ultimately went much further. It eventually included a definition of illegal sports betting. This reads, “'illegal sports betting' means any sports betting activity whose type or operator is not allowed under the applicable law of the jurisdiction where the consumer is located.”

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