The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA/Authority) is publishing its Annual Report and audited Financial Statements for the financial year ending 31 December 2021. The report provides an overview of the Authority’s achievements during the year under review and outlines the performance of the Maltese gaming industry during 2021, coupled with a medium-term outlook into the future. This is also followed by a detailed report explaining key statistics for the land-based and online gaming sectors.
- 54 on-site compliance audits were conducted and 230 desktop reviews were carried out, accounting for 65.5% coverage of the licensees base during 2021, accompanied by additional AML/CFT compliance examinations that are carried out by the FIAU, or the MGA on its behalf.Following information which emerged from compliance audits, compliance reviews and formal investigations, the Authority issued 64 warnings and cancelled seven (7) licences. In addition, the MGA issued a total of 31 administrative penalties as well as three (3) regulatory settlements, with a collective total financial penalty of €176,016.
- An additional 10 licensees were subject to enforcement measures by the FIAU, ranging from written reprimands to administrative penalties, based on the breaches identified during examinations carried out in previous years, including by the MGA. In total these amounted to just over €863,000.
- 13 individuals and companies were deemed not to be up to the Authority’s probity standards by the Fit & Proper Committee, mainly on the basis of mitigating the risks of money laundering or funding of terrorism. An additional three (3) applications were rejected by the Supervisory Council.
- Over 1,150 criminal probity screening checks were undertaken on individuals., shareholders and ultimate beneficial owners, key persons and other employees, and companies from both the land-based and online gaming sectors.
- The Authority continued with its commitment to supervise its online gaming licensees and conducted 91 interviews with prospective MLROs and key persons carrying out the AML/CFT function to determine the knowledge and suitability of each candidate.
- The Commercial Communication Committee of the MGA issued a total of 21 letters of Breach, of which 13 operators were found to be in breach of the Commercial Communications Regulations, (S.L. 583.09).
- In its efforts to protect players and encourage responsible gambling the Authority assisted a total of 6,170 players that requested assistance, covering most of the cases received during 2021 and the spill-over from 2020.
- The MGA also investigated 79 cases of websites having misleading references to the Authority and published a total of 61 notices on its website with the aim to prevent the public from falling victim to such scams. Furthermore, an additional 26 responsible gambling website checks were conducted.
- A sectoral risk assessment on money laundering and funding of terrorism-related risks affecting the land-based and online gaming sectors in Malta was undertaken.
Improvements in Efficiency and Effectiveness
- With the aim of reducing any unnecessary bureaucracy on its licensees, the Authority has reviewed the Gaming Licence Application Process as well as launched the Personal Portfolio.
- Improvements have been made in the way non-compliance matters are notified to the relevant licensee, and how operators are directed to rectify their position.
- The MGA published amendments to the ‘Guidance on the use of Innovative Technology Arrangements and the acceptance of Virtual Financial Assets and Virtual Tokens through the implementation of a Sandbox Environment’.
- Amendments to Article 22 of the Player Protection Directive (Directive 2 of 2018) were published, accompanied by a policy paper on ‘Amending the Return to Player Minimum Percentage’. Such amendments aim to streamline the minimum Return to Player percentage applicable to licensees across all sectors.
- A series of amendments to the Gaming Authorisations and Compliance Directive (Directive 3 of 2018) were published, including the extension of the applicability of suspicious betting reporting requirements to B2B licensees as well as broader amendments to the key functions. The latter was accompanied by the introduction of the Key Function Eligibility Criteria Policy which outlines the requirements the persons holding the various key functions are expected to fulfil in order to satisfactorily perform these duties which are vital for the applicable regulatory outcomes.
- A public consultation on the Applicability of the System and Compliance Audit Service Provider Guidelines to Financial Audit was issued with the aim of communicating and refining the proposal being put forward in relation to revised Guidelines and in order to promote a greater understanding of the proposal itself.
- The Authority established a dedicated Business Transformation team, tasked with assisting each of the MGA’s directorates to continuously re-assess and improve processes, to increase efficiency and reduce administrative burdens on the MGA and industry alike, and to focus resources where these truly provide added value.
National and International Cooperation
- A new alerting process was introduced vis-à-vis the sharing of knowledge on suspicious events that is reported with the whole industry without revealing the source of the information. Since its introduction, during the last quarter of 2021, a total of 72 alerts were sent to the industry, which resulted in a total of 20 new suspicious betting reports received via the Suspicious Betting Reporting Mechanism after such alerts were corresponded.
- A total of 131 requests for information specifically relating to the manipulation of sports competitions or breaches in sports rules were submitted by enforcement agencies, sport governing bodies, integrity units, and other regulatory bodies. As a result of such requests, data was exchanged in 41 instances. Additionally, a total of 329 suspicious betting reports from licensees and other concerned parties were received.
- During the period under review, the Authority was a direct participant in 20 different investigations across the globe relating to the manipulation of sports competitions or breaches in sports rules, as well as an indirect participant in 29 such investigations.
- The Authority received a total of 89 international cooperation requests from other regulators and sent 75 such requests, with the majority referring to requests for background checks as part of an authorisation process.
- A total of 125 letters of Good Standing were issued providing feedback on the regulatory good standing of our licenced operators to the relevant authorities asking for this information.
- An International Affairs Strategy has been devised as one of the measures aimed at enhancing Malta’s international credibility, fostering collaborative relationships with targeted stakeholders and mitigating the risks that the gaming industry in Malta is facing.
- In collaboration with the Malta Institute of Accountants two technical release notices were published, “Audit 02/21 Gaming Tax Payable and Levy on Gaming Devices” and “Audit 02/21 – Player Funds and Jackpot Funds”.
- Through a joint collaboration between the Authority, the FIAU and the MFSA, a document was published providing an overview of the key findings of Business Risk Assessments carried out by subject persons as per their obligations under the PMLFTR and the FIAU’s Implementing Procedures.
- A two-day workshop in collaboration with Bank of Valletta was organised, whereby various aspects of the control mechanisms as a Regulator were discussed.
In publishing this report, the CEO, Dr Carl Brincat said: “As an organisation, beyond continuing to ensure that we meet our day-to-day objectives, we used 2021 to start laying the groundwork for improvements that we will see in the months and years to come. It is a priority for us to move towards leaner and more efficient processes, to remove unnecessary bureaucracy which introduces burdens on the industry without providing added value, and to become more effective in achieving our regulatory priorities.”