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Malta regulator cancels seven licences in H1 of 2020

| By Robert Fletcher
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has revealed that it cancelled seven licences in the first half of 2020, while it contacted a number of other gambling operators in relation to breaches of its rules and regulations.

Published in its Interim Performance Report, covering the six months to 30 June 2020, the figures showed that the MGA issued a total of 20 notices of regulation breaches in H1, as well as 11 warnings.

Some nine administrative fines were handed out to operators, while two licences were suspended by the regulator.

Among the operators that had their licences cancelled in H1 were bSupporter, Pick Mater, Dorobet, The Daily Fantasy Football Company and Watch World Luxury, a Malta-based watch retailer.

In terms of financial settlements, Blackrock Media agreed to pay a penalty of €2.3m (£2.0m/$2.8m) for operating a gaming service without the necessary authorisation.

The report also included online gambling figures for the period, with some 303 licences issued. A total of 196 were B2C gaming licences, while 111 were B2B critical supply licences.

The number of active player online accounts climbed 11.8% year-on-year to 17.2m, while new active player accounts also increased 12.3% to 7.6m.

Slots were the most popular form of online gambling for type 1 games, with 77.4% of gaming revenue generated via these games in H1, compared to 18.4% on table game and 4.2% other games.

Some 74.8% of online sports betting revenue came through football wagering in the period, while peer-to-peer poker was by far the most popular form of gaming in Type 3, accounting for 90.8% of revenue in this category.

The MGA collected €24.6m in online gambling tax during the half, the highest six-monthly total since the second half of 2018, when €24.9m was paid by licensees.

In terms of land-based gambling, casinos took a hit due to the temporary closure of facilities as a result of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). Player visits slipped 54.6% year-on-year to 192,351, while new player registrations fell 64.1% to 26,176.

Land-based casinos paid a total of €3.9m in tax during the first half, less than half the €8.0m contributed in the same period in 2019.

Controlled gaming premises also took a hit in H1 due to Covid-19 measures, with player visits down 39.3% and tax contribution falling 42.0%. Commercial bingo player visits also decreased 54.1% to 38,190, with tax payment down 52.3% to €118,344.

In terms of Malta’s National Lottery, sales fell 36.5% year-on-year to €30.7m in H1, with operations again hampered by Covid-19 closures. A total of €4.0m was collected in gaming tax from National Lottery operations, down 34.4% on 2019.

Analysing the performance of the market as a whole, the MGA said a total of 313 companies were active by the end of H1, operating via 318 licences. Some 8,009 people were employed across the industry – 7,196 online and 813 in land-based gaming – and operators paid €33.7m in tax, down 16.3% year-on-year.

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