The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is the regulatory body responsible for all online and land-based gaming in Malta. As Malta’s ‘one-stop-shop’ for licensing, it is the MGA’s duty to promote gaming in a safe environment and ensure the integrity of games and devices, while granting licences to providers and creating a regulated environment from which gaming activities, remote or otherwise, can take place.
The MGA offers four types of gaming licenses:
Class 1 – a remote gaming licence whereby operators manage their own risk on repetitive games (suitable for casino-type games and online lotteries)
Class 2 – a remote betting licence for sports (fixed-odds) betting
Class 3 – a licence to advertise gaming in or from Malta (suitable for poker rooms and peer-to-peer gaming)
Class 4 – a licence to host and manage remote gaming operations (this is essentially a B2B gaming licence)
And licenses these products:
Horse racing and spread betting are the two types of gaming that aren’t licensed in Malta by the MGA.
When online gambling started to grow in popularity at the turn of the century, Malta greeted it with open arms. As KPMG stated in its 2013 report on the subject of remote gaming, 'Malta is at the forefront of the remote gaming industry and home to some of the world’s largest and most profitable online gaming companies.' In fact, around 50% of the country's international bandwith is used by remote gaming. In 2008, the EU identified that Malta’s gross gaming revenue was just over 7.8% of the country’s GDP, eleven times the EU average of 0.68%.
Malta has worked hard to attract online gaming companies. Its taxes are low: although the official income tax rate is a flat 35%, when dividends are paid by trading companies to shareholders, these shareholders can claim 85% of the tax back, effectively reducing it to 5%. Additionally, Malta's position within the Eurozone means that operators are less at the mercy of the international capital markets than in other low-tax regions, making it a popular choice with international operators.
In 2004, the island nation refreshed its gaming laws with the Remote Gaming Regulations. This was a step particularly welcomed by gaming operators as the new licences do not distinguish between the games played or types of technology used – for instance, a company could use the same licence for online and mobile gaming. This has significantly cut the amount of red tape needed to apply for permission for multiple types of gaming. The new regulations were also notable for offering more support and protection to players themselves, particularly in separating client accounts from operator funds and legally obliging funds in dormant accounts to be returned to the player.
Malta was the first country to regulate online gambling, and did so by adopting the Lotteries and Other Games Act. By getting there first, Malta was able to secure its position at the forefront of the industry, where it remains today. The legislative structure that is in place today was implemented when the industry was largely unregulated, setting an official standard for others to follow.
Malta’s gaming regulations are well known to be strict and structured, and the MGA prides itself on high levels of openness, fairness and honesty. The gaming authority strives to protect against crime and corruption, and protects minors and vulnerable players from the risks of gaming.
The most popular market in Malta is the online gaming market. KPMG noted that, 'Malta hosts approximately 10% of the world’s online gaming operators', an extraordinary statistic for an archipelago almost five times smaller than Greater London.While the country may not host huge sports events, it is home to one of the most prestigious online gaming industry events, the Summit of iGaming, Malta (SiGMA). This is a global conference of the iGaming elite, with a number of important guest speakers in addition to the dozens of exhibitors showing off their latest games or technology, including Ladbrokes, LeoVegas, ComeOn! and many more.
The country also hosted its first ever European Poker Tournament in association with Visit Malta, the Malta Tourism Authority and Hilton Hotels in March 2015, in the welcoming seaside town St. Julian’s. It was the biggest EPT festival held so far, featuring over forty tournaments and highlighting Malta's important position in the gaming landscape.