Malta’s gambling regulators are planning big changes to maintain the country’s role as a desirable hub for online gambling operators, including a national sports betting exchange to allow operators to hedge their bets.
Last Thursday, Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) chairman Joseph Cuschieri delivered a speech to attendees at a conference organized by Malta’s financial affairs parliamentary committee at which he revealed the MGA’s plans to leverage Malta’s remote gaming advantage.
Cuschieri started by underscoring the importance of Malta’s gaming industry to the overall economy. Gaming contributed €56.3m in direct taxes to the government’s 2016 budget, while gaming-related activity brought the total contribution to around €120m. Around 3k Maltese nationals currently earn their livelihood via the local gaming industry.
But Cuschieri warned that the MGA needed to be proactive “to avert the threats and reap opportunities at a global level.” The MGA has therefore developed a strategy to “future proof” the industry based around three main tenets.
The first of these tenets is a more focused approach to developing B2B activities, which tend to be less vulnerable to financial crime, regulatory and other external risks. The second tenet is enhanced efficiency of regulatory processes, including removing unneeded bureaucracy, while the third tenet involves ensuring the necessary flexibility to adapt to technological development and market demands.
On that last point, Cuschieri said the MGA was studying new game types such as eSports skins gambling, as well as virtual reality products. The MGA is also setting up “a national betting exchange so that we can create a structure where bets can be hedged.”
This exchange would reportedly not be restricted to MGA-licensed operators, but a variety of other matters such as commission rates remain very large question marks and there’s no timeline for implementation of this plan.
Cuschieri also said that the MGA is conducting “in-depth studies of the role which crypto-currencies can play within the Maltese regulatory regime.” The MGA hopes to unveil its plan to introduce “virtual currencies in a gaming context” later this year.
As recently as last August, Cuschieri was saying the MGA had received “very few requests” from online licensees regarding Bitcoin use but the MGA was nonetheless looking to develop a “national approach” to the use of crypto-currencies.
On that note, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced last week that his cabinet had approved the first draft of a national strategy to promote the blockchain technology that underpins Bitcoin. Muscat said the strategy was “not just about Bitcoin,” as he wanted to see blockchain technology employed in Malta’s lands and national health registries.
Muscat said he recognized that other European regulators may be wary of the new technology “but the fact is that it’s coming. We must be on the frontline in embracing this crucial innovation … We must be the ones that others copy.”