Less than 20 days after Italian authorities opened an international investigation on a number of Malta-based gambling companies accused of ties to Italy's organized crime, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) announced that the island's gambling legislation will be considerably updated in the coming months.
Speaking to Italy's news agency Agimeg, an MGA representative explained that the agency has been working on an update of the gambling laws since 2013 and that it intends to present a number of proposals to the Parliament that will "innovate, update, and extend the power of the gambling authority."
According to the MGA, the new model will allow the Maltese authorities to have greater control over the industry's gambling market while also increasing player protection with a particular focus on online gambling.
"Our work is going well and Parliamentary Secretary Jose Herrera announced that he plans to introduce to the parliament a new gambling law by fall."
The representative, however, denied any connection between the police operation named 'Gambling' and the legislative update, as he called the scandal that led to the arrest of 41 individuals and the closure of several gambling companies including known names as Betsolutions4U Limited and the Uniq Group Limited "an isolated episode."
"The information we have leads us to believe that it was an isolated event," the MGA representative continued. "Also, the MGA adopts a very particular approach to every situation and the risks represented by a specific operator, or a single business model do not affect the whole industry.
"[In Malta] we have a severe and well structured judicial basis. We should remember that Malta has been the first country in the European Union ever to regulate online gambling through the adoption of the Lotteries and other Games Act."
According to the MGA representative the Maltese legislation, which was adopted at a time when the gaming industry "was largely unregulated" is what attracted gambling companies to the island, making Malta "an example to follow."
If we want to bring more transparency to the industry, we need to make harder to hide certain people behind complicated company structures.
Criticism about the efficiency of Malta's gambling negotiations was expressed last week by international gaming lawyer and founder of the Gaming Legal Group, Bas Jongmans.
"People feel that Malta has a tight legislation on gambling as there are a lot of procedures in place, but the truth is that things may not be as rigorous as they seem," Jongmans told PokerNews.
"Online gaming in Malta grew so much that it's impossible for some companies to ask all the questions that need to be asked and to follow up on the answers. Legal professionals and trust companies who accept hundreds of clients do not have the means to do this and let's face it; it would also not be convenient for them."
Besides updating the Lotteries and other Games Act approved more than a decade ago, Jongmans believes that the Maltese authorities should consider tightening the rules about the establishment of gambling companies on the island and the way legal professionals work.
"We have just a few large professional legal firms that accept all the clients they can get, even if it's obvious that this impacts their ability to conduct thorough checks on their clients," Jongmans said.
"If we want to bring more transparency to the industry, we need to make harder to hide certain people behind complicated company structures and adopt a stricter regulation of legal professionals."
Although Jongmans said Italy's authorities have discovered "only the tip of an iceberg," Parliamentary Secretary Herrera minimized the possibility of more companies being involved in the investigation in an interview published by MaltaToday on July 30.
"One rotten apple, or, in this case, one alleged rotten apple, does not necessarily mean that the whole industry is corrupt," Herrera explained. "The regulator was created precisely to tackle these issues and to nip any of these bad companies in the bud, just as it did in this case."
According to Herrera, "Criminal activity may be present at all times, but the gaming industry is working in a transparent manner."
Image courtesy of The Telegraph