Working in any regulated industry, no matter where situated, has become that much more challenging.
An ever-developing regulatory and compliance landscape, fast moving technological progress, and moves for tax harmonisation and transparency have left many an entrepreneur, CEO and employee grasping for breath keeping up with the pace. But change we must, and change we will.
Malta was the first EU member state to regulate igaming way back in 2004, even though the industry started setting up shop on the island well before then. The country has handled it well and has learned and adapted along the way. It is indeed an achievement that the EU’s smallest member state saw the need to regulate and led the pack in doing so to the extent that, today, most EU members have regulated or are moving to regulate the industry very much on a similar basis as to what Malta did fourteen years ago. And yet, the pace of change drove Malta itself to continuously revise what it did in 2004. Over the years it has tweaked the regulations and improved where it needed to improve, such as ensuring stronger player protection. It also introduced additional laws to cater for new industry initiatives, such as the regulation of skill games.
The regulator did not stop there, as it recently recognised the need to completely rewrite the 2004 laws. After extensive consultation with stakeholders, the new Gaming Act was passed into law in January 2018 and shall come into effect at the beginning of next month (August 2018).
The new regulations are clearly designed to increase the attractiveness of Malta for the business-to-business (B2B) service providers whilst widening the scope of what can be licenced in terms of gaming. The new Act also allows the Malta Gaming Authority to adopt a risk-based approach in assessing and monitoring its operators in line with the 4th AML Directive and works towards reducing unnecessary bureaucracy.
In the second quarter of 2018, Parliament approved three Acts regulating the use of Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain), Virtual Financial Assets and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) to pave the way for Malta to establish itself as a leader in the sector. These new regulations shall also have an impact on remote gaming.
The regulator has constantly understood the importance of ensuring that it is ahead of the pack when designing regulation. In fact it has looked at the use of blockchain technologies and Cryptocurrency well before the new rules regulating that space came into force by initiating a sandbox project to test the waters. The Malta Gaming Authority’s openness to take on new opportunities and the new laws regulating DLT facing industry create new opportunities for the gaming industry as well as they will soon have very clear guidelines within which to take on cryptocurrencies.
Every regulatory milestone is an achievement but cannot be seen as the end of the story. Today’s innovators are already pushing the boundaries of what is set in writing (or even of what is still in the process of being written), as they always have, and that is a good thing. As an economy we have learned to embrace the new and the unknown as opposed to fear it. We have chosen to at least try to understand and take on board the opportunities presented by new technologies irrespective of the industry sector.
As we move on to the next chapter and head into the new Gaming Act, we continue to challenge ourselves, each other and the regulators to remain one step ahead in the game.
Author: Christian Farrugia, Senior Corporate Administrator, Company Administration Department