malta gaming authority

With a population of just half a million people, it is fascinating to explore the ways that Malta and its Gaming Authority have continued to attract both workers and businesses to the islands. The island-state has proven extremely adept at remaining relevant as the wider world has changed around it; the MGA is a perfect example of this, attracting dozens of remote gambling operations to the country and therefore creating hundreds of highly paid, skilled jobs for its inhabitants. 

The Malta Gaming Authority is one of the top-tier licensing authorities around the world as of 2022, attracting a similar number of licensees as the newer but better-known UK Gambling Commission.

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history of the mga

Malta is a small island-state in the Mediterranean Sea, located to the south of the Italian island of Sicily. The Greater Malta area actually consists of three separate islands – Malta is the largest of the group, followed by Gozo and finally Comino. Whilst others island states of a similar size are largely unknown around the world today, Malta has thrived. 

Why? This tiny island chain has been strategically important for centuries as colonial powers have sought to dominate the Mediterranean area. Today, Malta is a member of the European Union and is a popular holiday destination among citizens of the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, and other European states.

The Malta Gaming Authority was previously known as the Lotteries and Gaming Authority, or LGA, but rebranded itself in 2015 to better suit the role it had come to play in the worldwide gambling industry. It was initially set up in 2001 with the aim of regulating gambling within its own territory, but its management had the foresight to identify the forthcoming explosion in worldwide online gambling. As a result, the LGA began to offer licenses to online gambling websites as early as 2001.

This was near-enough a first, at the time; online gambling had been around since 1996, but several high-profile scandals had discouraged players in many countries from engaging with the online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms of the time. Whilst there were no guarantees in that initial industry environment, the licenses being issued by the LGA/MGA were quickly identified as being far more robust than those that had been issued by competing jurisdictions in Costa Rica, Kahnawake, and Curacao. 

Malta Gaming Authority rules and regulations

The strong success of the MGA in its early years convinced the Maltese government to make several changes to its laws on gambling, finance, and taxation. The island chain had always been an early adopter of the latest technology as it sought to secure employment for its citizens, so it is perhaps only natural that this tiny state would find itself leading the charge as the rest of the world spent another two decades getting in front of the online gambling revolution. 

When several other major European nations finally got around to creating their own regulatory agencies in the 2010’s, the MGA spotted that change was coming. On January 14th 2015, the islands gaming regulator announced they would rebrand from “The Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA)” to the “Malta Gaming Authority”, to better reflect their position as a worldwide leader in online gambling regulation.

You may think that the MGA is no longer necessary now that most countries have a regulator to call their own, but this is not the case. Huge numbers of online gambling businesses chose to move their operations to Malta at the beginning of the 21st century, all of whom now fall under the remit of the LGA. The friendly business environment, low taxes, and easy access to talented, hard-working employees is likely to ensure that these companies will remain in their Maltese offices for many years to come.

stated objectives of the malta gaming authority

The MGA is a non-profit organization which regulates the local gambling industry on the Maltese islands in addition to its well-earned position as a trustworthy issuer of gambling license to the online gambling industry. The businesses licensed by the MGA are subject to regular testing and investigations with the aim of ensuring that:

  • Minors and vulnerable persons are protected from harm caused by gambling
  • Gambling is promoted responsibly
  • Player funds are held separately from a business’s own financial accounts
  • Games are audited and tested to ensure they are fair and accurately represented

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been criticized in the past for choosing not handle player complaints directly, choosing to hand them off to independent dispute resolution providers instead. The MGA works in a very different manner, dealing directly with player complaints against their licensees. 

The system is still not perfect, however; small numbers of players have expressed disappointment over the years regarding the transparency of the complaints handling procedure offered by the MGA. The MGA has responded to this by expressing their regret that the specifics of some complaints prevent them from sharing the full details of their investigations but insist that they follow up every complaint thoroughly before making their decision on what the outcome of a case should be. 

notable actions

These are the notable actions invoked by the MGA during the past five years. If you wish to learn about rulings made by the organization prior to that you can consult the full enforcement register by clicking here.

  • August 2021 – The MGA pulled its pre-authorisation of licensing arrangements with Evobet, the flagship brand of the CW Marketing B.V. online casino group. This decision sent shockwaves around the industry, not least because the company’s Svenbet and Campeonbet brands have highly praised in recent years by both critics and players alike 

  • September 2020 – The MGA suspended the license awarded to the “Playbay” online gaming company after finding “systemic deficiencies” in its adherence to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Financing of Terrorism (CFT) obligations. 

  • March 2019 – The MGA announced they would be performing a major audit of all their licensees at the beginning of 2019. On the 1st of March the same year it was announced that four operators would be sanctioned because of that process. Two British companies had their licenses revoked - Bet Service Group Ltd and World of Bets EU Ltd – whilst Betixx Ltd and Morpheus Games were subject to a temporary suspension of their licenses with strict instructions to correct multiple issues discovered during the audit.
  • Customers of Betixx and Morpheus Games were furious at the decision to ban gambling activities whilst the suspension was in place, with many German and Norwegian players expressing their anger at a ruling which effectively froze their bankrolls for an indefinite period.

  • May 2017 – The MGA announced that they were suspending the remote gaming license of Vodoo Limited without any public explanation of the reasons behind the suspension. The operator was banned from participating in any gambling related activity whilst the suspension was in place, forcing players to reclaim their funds through a long and tedious procedure created by the MGA. The company eventually reopened with a license from Curacao.

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Chris Howlett

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