Malta Enacts a Bill to Protect Maltese-Licensed Online Gaming Providers

June 23, 2023 | Government

VIENNA, Austria (June 21, 2023) — Malta recently published a Bill 55 to protect Maltese-licensed online gaming providers. Under the newly inserted Article 56A of the Maltese Gaming Act, a claim against a license holder and, or current and, or former officers and, or key personnel of a license holder for matters relating to the provision of a gaming service, or against a gaming participant for the receipt of such Gaming Service, not allowed if such claim:

(i) interferes with or undermines the legality of the provision of gaming services in or from Malta pursuant to a license granted by the Authority or the legality of any legal or natural obligation arising from the provision of such gaming services; and

(ii) relates to an authorized activity that is lawful under the Gambling Act and other applicable regulatory instruments.

A Maltese court is now obliged (as a matter of Maltese public policy) to refuse to recognize and/or enforce in Malta foreign judgments and/or decisions made on the basis of a claim of the type referred to above.

What at first glance looks like arbitrariness on the part of the island state has, according to legal analysis, an absolutely legitimate background:

According to EU regulation Brussels INational courts can refuse to recognize and enforce a foreign judgment if it is contrary to public policy (ordre public) in the Member State in which enforcement is sought. However, this procedure corresponds to generally applicable EU law and has nothing to do with gambling. Claus Retschitzegger, President of the OVWG (Austrian Association for Betting and Gambling): “This law is not about the interests of providers or players, but about protecting Maltese public order, in which gambling plays an important role. In any case, I don’t think it serves to protect players if players are told that they can play risk-free because they can always sue for their losses.”

The impact of Bill 55 and similar legislation on the gaming industry and future regulation in Europe remains to be seen. The debates and litigation about the right way to deal with the online gaming sector will continue.

All EU member states are required to effectively guarantee player protection in a fair license model. The numerous legal disputes over off-shore licenses and the freedom to provide services are of no use to either the players or the member countries.

The fact is that almost all EU member states have already recognized the signs of the times and have switched their gambling markets to reasonable license models. By January 2026 at the latest, Finland will open its casino monopoly as the penultimate country in the EU. When will Austria follow?

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