The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), Malta's gaming regulatory body, has resolutely protected the much-discussed legislation, Bill 55, which Maltese president George Vella signed into law in June this year, after it received criticism that “the amendment is not compatible with European law.”
The legislation isn't against European law
In its defense arguments, the MGA stated that “Bill 55, also known as Article 56A of Malta's Gaming Act, does not go against European law, but protects Malta-licensed operators from legal liability resulting from their gambling activities, when the activity is covered under their MGA license.”
However, the MGA's statement comes after the Gemeinsamen Glücksspielbehörde der Länder (GGL), Germany's gambling regulatory body, noted that the bill, now law, goes against the Recast Brussels Regulation, a 2013 European law governing jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of legal judgement between EU member states. To show that this isn't the case, the MGA emphasized a section in a 2013 European law which states that “a member state may refuse to recognize a legal judgement if does not match with the principles of its legal system.” Furthermore, the Malta Gaming Authority added that “the lawmakers' intention when writing the law was not to build any new exceptions to the regulation, but it was to enshrine into law the long-standing public policy of Malta in relation to the gaming sector.”
Additionally, to show that it backs up the law, it also said: “The scope of Bill 55 is highly restrictive. 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.” However, it emphasized that “an operator could only be protected from a suit when its gambling activities are legal according to the country's Gaming Act and the lawsuit would need to conflict with or undermine the legality of the Malta gaming framework for Bill 55 to take effect.”
Litigation about the legality of Malta's gaming laws
Speaking about the legality of its gambling laws, the MGA also claimed that “its gambling laws are covered under the rules governing the European free-movement of services.” In this regard, it said: “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.”
But, when talking about this particular issue, European governments and regulators highlighted “the 2017 Commission decision to close infringement procedures and complaints in the gambling sector.” According to them, this decision means that “gambling services cannot be considered a service that can be broadcast European-wide under an MGA license.”
The European Commission to scrutinize Bill 55
The aforementioned Bill 55 has already received criticism from few parties for breaching European law. Therefore, in July of this year, the European Commission revealed that it would scrutinize the said bill in order to make sure that there were no breaches of EU law, which is why it requested additional information from the Maltese authorities.
However, as soon as the mentioned check is completed, there is a chance that the case will come before the European Court of Justice, because it has always been the ultimate decision-maker in litigations between domestic and European law.
Source: “MGA defends controversial Bill 55 after criticism”, iGaming Business IGB, August 25, 2023
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