Malta’s New Gambling Law Takes Effect July 1 as EC Standstill Ends

Malta’s new Gaming Act has survived a three-month standstill period in the European Commission and is now on schedule to take effect on July 1, 2018.

Tabled in the Maltese Parliament this spring and introduced to the EC for an obligatory review, the new law aims to scrap the country’s current gambling regulatory system that grants licenses in several classes and replace it with a system that will only award two categories of licenses – a business-to-business (B2B) one and a business-to-consumer (B2C) one, depending on the focus of applicants’ operations.

The new Gaming Act comes as the first revision of Malta’s gambling legislation in fourteen years and was initiated by the Malta Gaming Authority’s former Executive Chairman, Joseph Cuschieri. Mr. Cuschieri assumed office at the island nation’s gambling regulator in the fall of 2013. Earlier this year, he was appointed CEO of the Malta Financial Authority, which required him to leave his post at the MGA. He was replaced by former MGA Chief Operations Officer Heathcliff Farrugia.

Aside from introducing a simplified licensing system, Malta’s new Gaming Act provides the MGA with extended regulatory powers and enforcement functions. The regulatory body will thus be able and expected to implement stricter rules and tools for countering money laundering, terrorism financing, and other illicit financial flows often associated with the gambling industry.

What’s Next for Malta’s Gaming Industry?

Malta has become an important gambling hub in the years since its gaming law was last revised. The nation’s gambling industry currently represents 12% of its annual GDP and is poised to grow in the coming years.

The new Gaming Act is expected to facilitate the process of providing gaming services from Malta by introducing a simplified licensing process and thus boost the growth of the nation’s gaming industry even further. The new law also aims to bring Malta’s regulatory regime in line with the current iGaming landscape and demand for iGaming services.

The new regulatory regime is now set to come into effect from July 1, 2018 for remote gambling operations, and from January 1, 2019 for land-based businesses. It is also important to note that providers of B2B services will be exempt from taxes under the new regulations. That particular language in Malta’s new law aims to turn the nation into an even more attractive tech hub.

While the island nation is already home to some of the world’s largest online gambling companies, it is expected that Gibraltar’s uncertain post-Brexit future could result in industry stakeholders reducing their presence in the British Overseas Territory or leaving it altogether in favor of opening or extending their Malta operations.

Reports emerged last month that bet365 might be gearing up to leave Gibraltar and relocate its operations to Malta where it already runs business. The company denied those reports by confirming plans to expand its business in Malta but not at the expense of its Gibraltar operations.

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