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MGA defends controversial Bill 55 after criticism

| By Zak Thomas-Akoo
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) defended controversial Bill 55 following criticism the amendment is not compatible with European law.
Bill 55

The MGA said Bill 55, also known as Article 56A of Malta’s Gaming Act, does not go against European law. The legislation protects Malta-licensed operators from legal liability resulting from their gambling activities, when the activity is covered under their MGA licence.

This follows yesterday’s (24 August) news the German gambling regulator said the law conflicts with the Brussels Recast Regulation, which governs how legal judgements are settled between EU members.

In response to this, the MGA pointed to the section in the Recast Regulation which says a member state may refuse to recognise a legal judgement if does not match with the principles of its legal system.

As such, the regulator said the lawmakers’ intention when writing the law was not to build any new exceptions to the regulation. Instead, it was to “enshrine into law the long-standing public policy of Malta in relation to the gaming sector”.

To support the law, the MGA also said the scope of Bill 55 is “highly restrictive”. It added the law does not stop every legal action taken against a Malta-licensed gambling operator, highlighting the law sets out specific conditions for it to do so.

The regulator outlined an operator could only be protected from a suit when its gambling activities are legal according to the country’s Gaming Act. It added the lawsuit would need to conflict with or undermine the legality of the Malta gaming framework for Bill 55 to take effect.

Dispute over legality of Malta gaming law

The MGA also argued its gambling laws are covered under the rules governing the European free-movement of services.

“The Maltese gaming framework, in turn, is in full conformity with EU law and is based on the freedoms afforded to an entity established within the internal market,” said the regulator.

However, on the other hand, European regulators and governments have pointed to a 2017 Commission decision to close infringement procedures and complaints in the gambling sector.

This, they argue, means gambling services cannot be considered a service that can be broadcast European-wide under an MGA licence.

European Commission to examine Bill 55

Bill 55 has faced criticism from several parties for being in violation of European law.

Last month, the European Commission said it would examine it to ensure its compatibility with EU law. As such, it said it has requested more information from Malta’s authorities.

Once the Commission has made its decision there is the possibility the case will make its way up to the European Court of Justice. The court has historically been the final decision maker in disputes between European and domestic law.

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