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Compliance Updates

MGA Issues Interim Performance Report for January to June 2023

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The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has released its Interim Performance Report for the period between January and June 2023. The report provides a review of the Authority’s accomplishments for the first half of 2023, together with a description of the Maltese gaming industry’s performance over the same period. The latter provides a medium-term outlook towards the future, as well as an analysis outlining important statistics for the land-based and online gaming industries.

Supervisory Activities

  • Between January and June 2023, the Authority conducted 14 compliance audits and 85 desktop reviews. The Commercial Communications Committee also issued a total of three Letters of Breach, whereby operators were found to be in breach of the Gaming Commercial Communications Regulations (S.L. 583.09). The Authority issued 23 warnings, cancelled four licences and suspended another five, following information which emerged from supervisory activities. Furthermore, the MGA issued a total of nine administrative penalties as well as one regulatory settlement, with a collective total financial penalty of €124,400.
  • The MGA also carried out 11 Compliance Examinations on behalf of the FIAU. During the same period, the FIAU imposed administrative penalties on three licensees based on violations discovered during examinations carried out in previous years. In total, these amounted to €599,420.
  • A total of 545 criminal probity screening checks were undertaken on personnel, shareholders, ultimate beneficial owners, key individuals, employees, and businesses from the land-based and online gaming sectors. A number of these were escalated to the Fit & Proper Committee, which during the period in review determined that four individuals and entities did not meet the Authority’s fit and properness criteria. The Supervisory Council also rejected one licence application on the same basis.
  • In the first half of the year, 19 interviews with prospective MLROs and key persons carrying out the AML/CFT function were carried out with the aim of determining the knowledge and suitability of each candidate.
  • In its efforts to safeguard players and promote responsible gaming, the Authority assisted a total of 2216 players who requested assistance, covering the majority of the cases received during 2023 and the spillover from 2022. Furthermore, 40 responsible gambling website checks were conducted to ensure that licensees are duly protecting their players as required by law, and 16 observation letters were issued identifying areas of improvement.
  • A total of 11 cases of websites having misleading references to the Authority were investigated, while a total of six notices were published on the MGA’s website with the aim of preventing the public from falling victim to such scams.

National and International Cooperation

  • Enforcement agencies, sports governing bodies, integrity units and other regulatory authorities made a total of 12 requests for information, specifically in relation to the manipulation of sporting events or violations of sporting regulations. Subsequently, these requests resulted in 17 data exchanges. In addition, 166 allegations of suspicious betting from licensees and other interested parties were received.
  • Between January and June 2023, a total of 118 alerts on suspicious betting were sent to the industry. Following further correspondence of these alerts to the industry, the Authority received a total of 12 new suspicious betting reports through the Suspicious Betting Reporting Mechanism.
  • The Authority participated directly in six separate investigations into sports rules violations or manipulation of sporting competitions during the time under review. A direct investigation implies that the report came from MGA licensed operators, and thus betting data was shared. In addition, the Authority also participated indirectly in another five investigations, where the events reported formed part of another jurisdiction, but concerned Maltese players.
  • The Authority sent 23 requests for international cooperation, relating to requests for background checks as part of an authorisation process. Furthermore, the Authority received a total of 37 requests for international collaboration from other regulators.
  • By the end of June 2023, a further 53 official replies were issued, providing feedback on the regulatory good standing of our licensed operators to the relevant authorities asking for this information.
  • In total, during the first six months of the year, the MGA received 45 requests for information from other local regulating authorities and governing bodies.

The MGA will publish a full-year industry performance report during the second half of 2024, when it publishes its Annual Report for the financial year ending 31 December 2023.

Balkans

Montenegro Ministry Ignores EU Law and Bans Apple Pay, PayPal, Mobile Banking in Controversial Betting Law Amendments

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In a move that has raised eyebrows across the global financial community, including the European betting and iGaming sectors, Montenegro has enacted amendments to its gambling laws that effectively ban the use of modern electronic payment methods, including Apple Pay, PayPal, mobile banking, IPS, and e-banking

Ironically, the Minister of Finance stated a few days ago that the country has no obligation to comply with EU rules, a paradoxical stance for a nation actively seeking EU membership and aiming to integrate into the world of digital business.

In 2021, the European Commission urged Montenegro to strengthen its efforts to counter money laundering. However, the recent amendments move in the opposite direction, potentially isolating the country from EU practices and global financial community trends.

Since the beginning of 2024, however, Montenegro’s gambling sector has been in turmoil.

 

The Industry Response

The controversial ban on electronic payments seems designed to curb competition, preventing the growth of foreign-owned companies, including U.S. enterprises. This move contradicts global business practices and undermines the principles of competitive business. A petition calling to halt the change received 25,000 signatures, representing around 5% of the country’s electorate, in just five days. It highlighted the risk of significant job losses in the industry and the potential economic repercussions of such legislative measures.

Montenegro Bet, the country’s nationwide trade association, has submitted the petition to the country’s assembly and initiated a constitutional review, highlighting concerns over the unconstitutionality of the amendments. Additionally, they are working with international institutions to draw attention to the negative impacts of the law changes and their contradictions with EU directives. All those attempts have remained without a single institutional response.

 

Overview of Breaches of EU Acquis by Article 68f

Much of the backlash to the amendments comes from the view that they conflict with European Union (EU) law. While Montenegro isn’t currently in the EU, it is a candidate for membership and is expected to align its laws with EU standards. The amendments clash with several key EU legal provisions, including the TFEU, Payment Services Directive, which seeks to form an integrated market for electronic payments, and the EU 4 and 5AML Directives, which categorize cash transactions as high risk for money laundering.

 

Multiple Lawsuits Incoming

The combination of apparent corruptive practices orchestrated by local companies within the same industry and certain individuals within the Ministry of Finance results in an attempt to de facto expel multiple operators, including those based in U.S, clearly denying equal market access.

This has already led to substantial legal challenges. Multiple operators are preparing preliminary steps toward legal action, including a lawsuit before the International Court for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

 

A Cash and Retail-Loving Law in the Middle of the Digital Age

The amendment to Article 68f of Montenegro’s gambling law has sparked significant concern within the country’s gambling sector. The new law disables various electronic payment methods, such as e-banking and mobile payments, for depositing funds into betting accounts. This leaves bettors in Montenegro with only two options: they must either enter a betting shop to place a cash wager, which then transfers funds into their accounts, or pay via card, but only at a terminal in a betting shop.

This strange move forces players to go to a store just to fund their online accounts, which is inconvenient in a time when digital transfers should be the norm.

 

Defying Global Trends and AML Standards – What Next?

Montenegro’s move to limit electronic payments is an outlier among global trends. Internationally, there is a clear shift towards reducing cash transactions in favor of electronic payments, as advocated by bodies like Moneyval and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The global financial community is embracing digital solutions for their transparency and efficiency.

Montenegro’s stance not only isolates it from EU practices but also contradicts the direction of the global financial community, increasing the risk of money laundering and undermining investor confidence.

The prohibition of the safest and most advanced methods of online payment business, such as Apple Pay and PayPal, in favor of promoting cash transactions, is a troubling development that warrants urgent attention and action from both national and international stakeholders.

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Compliance Updates

MGA Provides Information on Updates Made to Audit/Review Process

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The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has provided information to its Approved Audit Service Providers and current and prospective licensees about the updates made to the Audits section on the Authority’s portal, and the related Audit/Review process.

“The Malta Gaming Authority (the Authority) would like to inform its Approved Audit Service Providers and current and prospective licensees of minor updates made to the Audits section on the Authority’s portal, and the related Audit/Review process. The following information outlines the considerations to be made for the auditing process, and the submission of reports for any of the System Audits, System Reviews and/or Compliance Audits engagements, hereinafter referred to as the ‘Audits’.

“After receiving approval from the Authority, the appointed Service Provider has sixty (60) days to complete System Audits and System Reviews, and ninety (90) days for Compliance Audits. The completed Audit report must be submitted electronically through the Authority’s portal. Should the appointed Service Provider identify any instances of non-compliance during this review period, the licensee should be notified, and the licensee is strongly encouraged to address and rectify any identified issues within their documentation and/or systems throughout the Audit period.

“In such circumstances, the Approved Service Provider must conduct fresh audit checks of the identified non-compliances and appropriately mark such checks within the Audit Report as ‘Resolved at Audit Stage’, if deemed to be compliant. Furthermore, the ‘Partially Compliant’ status can be used if an audit check is found to be partially compliant with the Regulations.

“In view of these changes, the Authority has added two new External Audit Conclusions statuses, these being ‘Resolved at Audit Stage’ and ‘Partially Compliant’, for the Service Providers to be able to report the Audit findings accordingly.

“Should there be any instances of non-compliance which cannot be resolved within the Audit deadline, the licensee may request a one-time extension of the Audit deadline to resolve and re-audit the identified systems and/or documentation issues. The request of such an extension would need to be accompanied by a summary of the issue/s, and a plan of rectification. The extension is at the Authority’s discretion, the time-frame of which shall be determined by the Authority.

“It is important to note that the Authority retains the right to reject an Audit Report if it is unable to arrive at a conclusive review outcome due to a significant number of instances of non-compliance.”

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Compliance Updates

Danish Gambling Authority Updates Requirements for Reporting Game Data

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The Danish Gambling Authority (DGA) has updated the requirements for reporting game data.

Interested parties can comment on the update before the final version is issued. Comments must be sent to the DGA no later than Monday the 10th of June 2024. Comments must be submitted by using the contact form.

The DGA expects the updated requirements for reporting game data to come into force in 2025. The final date has not been determined. A possible transition period will be described in connection with the issuing of the updated requirements for reporting game data.

Changes

Several linguistic adjustments have been made and some guidance texts have been added/adjusted. In addition to this, the following significant changes and additions should be mentioned:

  • Addition of a requirement that bets on fixed odds must be reported as independent transactions
  • Addition of requirements for reporting on odds for betting
  • Added requirement for reporting event information incl. list with country codes and sports
  • Added requirements for reporting odds on bets as well as specific requirements for reporting partially closed bets and Spreadbetting
  • Clarifying the handling of reporting for the betting exchange/BetExchange
  • Exception where SpillerInformationIdentifikation does not have to be reported for land-based betting has been removed after the introduction of the requirement for Player ID
  • Adding requirements for reporting RNG used for Virtual Fixed Odds
  • Adding a requirement that a casino session cannot be interrupted in the middle of a move, as well as a description of how “a move” is defined
  • Clarification of different poker types and how they are reported
  • Adding requirements to win lists in poker tournaments and manager games
  • Clarification of downscaling of pool games
  • Adding new requirements for providing test data for Jackpots
  • Clarifying the handling of changes to reported data. Including specific clarification of the distinction between changes to the game result and correction of error reporting.
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