The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has commenced a preliminary market consultation to gather opinion on its plans to launch a unified self-exclusion system in the country’s regulated gambling market.
First proposed in May of last year, the unified system would mean that players would be able to block access to all Malta licensees' services when they self-exclude from one. While operators are already required to offer players the option of self-excluding, there is nothing to link different companies' databases, meaning a player blocked from one operator's sites could gamble via another.
The MGA said that a unified system would support its ongoing aim to implement further controls to help prevent gambling-related harm, with a similar system in place for land-based operators in the country.
MGA explained that the system would work by a player self-excluding from one site, with the operator in question then passing their information on to all other licensees in Malta, who can then block the individual from their platforms. The regulator said it may also consider expanding system to incorporate operators that are not licensed in Malta, but target customers in the country by virtue of a licence in another jurisdiction, or allow operators to plug into the system on a voluntary basis.
The system could also feature functionality for third-party exclusion as well as operator-imposed exclusion, on the basis of its active duty of care towards its customers.
The MGA said that the system should also include a dedicated, central self-exclusion website, an online form to capture consumer details, a database for self-exclusions, data protection-compliant systems, as well as a record matching process to match user details across different accounts.
With this in mind, the MGA is seeking to gather opinion on the type of technologies available, stating that the final system may be a combination of solutions. This could include products that are either centralised or decentralised in nature, as well as those that make use of the cloud or are hosted on-premises.
The regulator believes an online variant of its land-based solution is necessary to ensure players are protected across all channels. During the six months to June 30, 2018, the number of requests from Maltese consumers to self-exclude from land-based gambling amounted to 869, up 19% in the same period in the previous year.
For remote gaming activities, the same six-month period saw self-exclusion requests for gaming websites licensed by the MGA reach around 540,000, up 31.9% on 2017.
Industry stakeholders that wish to share their thoughts on the plans can do so via a form on the Maltese Government’s Electronic Public Procurement System. All submissions for the consultation should be sent via this method, with comments accepted until May 31, 2019.
The regulator is in the process of pursuing tools and means to further strengthen the protection afforded to consumers. As part of this effort, the MGA has recently published the Player Protection Directive to set out consumer protection controls for licensees, as well as the Alternative Dispute Resolution Directive to set out a formal complaint-handling process.
Image: Mike McBey