MGA opts for soft touch as licence cancellations plummet in 2021

| By Zak Thomas-Akoo
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) cancelled fewer licences in 2021, opting instead to issue more warnings and administrative penalties than in previous years.
MGA licence

This was revealed in the MGA’s annual report for 2021.

In total, the MGA cancelled seven licences in 2021. This is significantly less compared with the 14 licences the regulator cancelled in 2019, and 12 in 2020.

This trend of fewer enforcement actions can also be seen in its suspensions for the year – the MGA did not suspend a single licence in 2021, compared to the 11 and 3 suspended by the MGA in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Instead, the regulator has made better use of warnings and administrative penalties. It enforced 31 administrative penalties in 2021, as opposed to 24 and 28 in the previous two years.

The total number of official warnings for the year was 64, compared to just 20 in 2019. However, this is below the 70 the regulator issued in 2020.

“In 2021, a total of 210 cases were discussed by the Compliance and Enforcement Committee (CEC),” read the report. “The latter’s decisions in such cases relate to the evaluation of enforcement recommendations with respect to the non-compliance breaches.”

The regulator further elaborated on the value that enforcement brought.

“Enforcement is crucial for the authority; it helps us fulfil our mandate as a regulator. It is not only a necessary tool in our arsenal to achieve the mandate set out by law, but also essential as a measure of fairness towards licensees that are compliant,” the report continued.

“We ensure that our enforcement processes and procedures are streamlined and effective, with adequate room for adaptation wherever necessary.”

MGA inspections

The regulator additionally conducted a large number of land-based inspections and evaluations in 2021 – visiting 5,901 licensed casinos.

The MGA also inspected 2,215 gaming parlours, 1,537 lottery booths, 92 commercial bingo operations and 64 non-profit tombolas.    

The report also explained the steps it took in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of inspections in 2021, as this had an effect on the number of inspections that could be carried out.

“The temporary closure of gaming premises during 2020 and 2021 resulted in a drop in the number of inspections we carried out in casinos, gaming parlours, commercial bingo halls and non-profit events. During the months in question, our efforts were invested in collaborating with the various gaming establishments,” it stated.

“These sought to upgrade the gaming devices, the count for table games and the re-sealing of all pertinent gaming equipment in order to ensure that they were deemed fit and proper to welcome the general public following the lifting of restrictions in June 2021.”

FATF grey list

Another major event in 2021 was Malta being placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list. The FATF is a global anti-money laundering body.

“The placing of Malta in 2021 on the FATF’s list of jurisdictions under increased monitoring was undeniably an obstacle in our continued effort to retain Malta’s position as the place of choice for the establishment of a sustainable and well-regulated gaming business,” said Ryan C Pace, chairperson of the MGA.

“I believe that our achievements have contributed towards Malta’s removal from the FATF grey list, while the changes that have been implemented in the past months will continue to strengthen our jurisdiction.”

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