26.09.2017

Fairwinds Management Limited is teamed up with a gambling consultant located in Malta to provide a holistic service for our clients looking at obtaining iGaming and betting licenses. Our office will assist you throughout the application process, establishing optimal company structure in order to get started within this market.

Recently, we’ve met up with Iosif Galea to get a full insight on the Maltese iGaming industry. Iosif has been involved in the online gaming industry in Malta for more than eleven years and presently he is a Key Official/Director/MLRO and Compliance Officer for a number of Malta licensed online gaming operators. More info about Iosif Galea here: www.gamblingconsultantmalta.com.

1. You are engaged in the gambling consultancy. Which services do you offer to your clients?

As a gambling consultant, I provide strategic advice, business planning and regulatory advice. Being a consultant who have worked at the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) as a compliance officer for seven years, I have hands on experience of the Malta regulatory regime and deep knowledge of regulation in the other EU jurisdictions such as UK, Italy, Denmark and Curacao. I provide advice on licensing, compliance and the continuous monitoring of compliance and regulatory affairs. Furthermore, I offer my advice on regulatory risk assessment prior to choosing a jurisdiction to regulate the gambling operation.

2. Malta is considered as one of the world’s largest centers of remote gambling. What are the advantages of this jurisdiction in comparison to others?

Malta is an EU country since 2004 and offers a very strong regulatory environment. The main advantages of setting up shop in Malta are the lowest taxation rates in the EU and a very attractive fiscal regime. In comparison with other jurisdictions, gaming operators have and continue to choose Malta because there are clear and rapid licensing procedures with an effective and highly reputable regulator, the Malta Gaming Authority. Another main advantage is that Malta has become a regional ICT hub, thus one can find many IT and Financial services institutions connected within the gaming industry in the same ecosystem.

3. Which difficulties are faced by gambling companies intending to operate in Malta? What nuances should be taken into account by those who plan to obtain Maltese license for remote gambling?

The remote gaming regime applied by the MGA is both technology and game-neutral, therefore encompassing any type of gaming offered by means of distance communication (including, but not limited to, internet, digital TV, mobile phone technology and telephony). Any game offered by means of distance communication, which can be securely managed and is compliant with the Regulations, will be reviewed and considered for licensing by the MGA. Malta boasts of a rigorous vetting and compliance system, therefore the gambling operator must be prepared with all the corporate, financial and technical documentation prior to applying for a Malta Gaming License. Every applicant must be prepared with documentation relevant to the corporate structure and the shareholders, business plans and the technical documentation relevant to the gaming system and the infrastructure which shall be used by the applicant.

4. Which major changes within the remote gambling regulation have occurred in Malta recently? Are there any modifications that may occur this year?

Malta’s legislative framework has always been a very innovative one. Earlier this year, the MGA has introduced the Skill Games Regulations (Fantasy Sports). The latter regulations are now in force and already big names such as Draftkings and Fanteam have acquired such license. A fantasy sports game will qualify for this type of license if there is a monetary prize, if the winning is predominantly determined through the skill or knowledge of the player and if the result is determined by the accumulation of statistical results of the performance of a number of individuals in sporting events. A controlled skill games licence may be a licence to provide a service for the purposes of engaging with end consumers, or a licence to provide a supply that is in a business-to-business capacity. The license is valid for five years and is subject to a number of requirements, including a procedure to ensure that the persons behind the business are fit and proper, financial and system auditing to ensure that the operation is fair, sound and secure, and other measures to prevent fraud and money-laundering, a consumer-centric approach to the business, a high level of information security and segregation of player funds.

Malta currently awards Class 1 (Casino/Lottery), Class 2 (Sportsbook), Class 3 (Poker/P2P) and Class 4 (Remote Gaming Software Services/Platform) licenses. Another revamp of the regulations in the near future might be the introduction of just a B2C (business to customer) and B2B (business to business) license by the MGA. Therefore, a casino operator who currently uses 3 software platforms, in the near future, instead of applying for three licenses with the MGA may only need to apply for just one B2C gaming license.

Last year, the Malta Gaming Authority has also issued a position on technical infrastructures. The approach adopted by the MGA is intended to provide the necessary flexibility for operators to exploit the benefits of technology; including cloud hosting solutions while ensuring adequate supervision over an operator’s systems.

Malta’s Premier Joseph Muscat earlier this month has also said that Malta must be on the frontline in embracing Blockchain and Bitcoin. Addressing a conference organised by the financial affairs parliamentary committee, Muscat said that Malta will become one of the first countries in the world to embrace blockchain and that the strategy will soon be put up for public consultation. “This is not just about Bitcoin, and I also look forward to seeing blockchain technology implemented in the Lands Registry and the national health registries,” Premier Muscat said. “Malta can be a global trail-blazer in this regard.”

Muscat reiterated his call on the EU to harness the potential of cryptocurrencies and seek to become the “Bitcoin continent of Europe”. “I understand that regulators are wary of this technology but the fact is that it’s coming,” Muscat said bluntly. “We must be on the frontline in embracing this crucial innovation, and we cannot just wait for others to take action and copy them. We must be the ones that others copy.”

5. According to the latest data, 888 Holdings is considering an alternative to Gibraltar for its operating center hosting. The company is apprehensive about detrimental effect of Brexit on the region. What is your opinion about its effect on such jurisdictions as Malta, Gibraltar, etc.? Will companies massively move to other jurisdictions from Gibraltar?

According to 888’s annual report, it states: “The proposed status of Gibraltar in relation to the United Kingdom as a result of ‘Brexit’ is at present unclear. If 888 were to remain registered, licensed and operating in Gibraltar in these circumstances, its ability to rely on EU freedom of services/establishment principles in supplying its services within the EU will be limited.”

It went on to state: “Brexit could adversely affect economic or market conditions in the United Kingdom, Europe or globally and could contribute to instability in global financial markets, in particular until there is more certainty as to the form that Brexit will take and its effect on Gibraltar, the United Kingdom and the EU. Malta may be considered as an alternative ‘dot com’ licensing jurisdiction.”

As a result of the Brexit and the proposed status of Gibraltar in relation with the UK, I definitely think that this will affect Malta positively. Throughout the years, Malta’s tax rebate policies were surely the island’s main assets and they have encouraged business relocation from all over Europe and beyond. Malta is improving its competitiveness according to a report released by the World Economic Forum. In the report, Malta was placed 40th in the overall ranking, making the fifth largest jump out of the 138 countries involved. This was the highest position achieved within the last decade. With regards to the economic environment Malta has placed 21st, significantly higher than the 71st place achieved by the final year of 2012.

Here at Fairwinds Management, we can provide assistance throughout the whole process starting from the company incorporation, licenses application, creating the business plan and forecasts and guide you through all the necessary steps in order to obtain a license. If you would like to discuss with us the above, do not hesitate to contact Ms Joceline Caruana, B.Com, M.Acc, Melit, AIA, Cert. Tax on jcaruana@fairwindsmanagement.net.