COVID-19: Measures taken by the Malta Gaming Authority

by , on May 06, 2020 03:03:55 PM

The Malta Gaming Authority (the “MGA”) has taken various measures in order to ensure that regulatory obligations continue to be abided by regulated entities during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this respect, a number of Press Releases and Circulars were issued, the contents of which will be outlined below.

 Publication of Legal Notice 76 of 2020, Closure of Places Open to the Public Order

 In a statement published on the 18th of March 2020, the MGA informed the public that in terms of L.N. 76 of 2020, entitled “Closure of Places Open to the Public Order, 2020”, all bingo halls, casinos, gaming parlours, and lotto booths, have been closed to the public for an indefinite period.

 The MGA also made reference to the guidelines issued by Maltco Lotteries regarding the games offered and the payment of winnings thereto.

 MGA extends deadline for the submission of audited financial statements

 In a statement issued on the 25th of March 2020, the MGA referred to licensees’ obligation to submit audited financial statements by not later than 180 days after the end of their financial year end.

 The MGA recognizes that the difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic has caused and therefore has decided to extend the deadline for the submission of audited financial statements for those licensees whose financial year ends between December 2019 and March 2020, to the end of October 2020.

 The MGA however noted that notwithstanding this extension, licensees are still required to submit unaudited accounts by not later than 180 days after the end of their financial year end.

 MGA issues notice on socially responsible commercial communications with respect to COVID-19

 In light of the difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about, the MGA has issued a statement highlighting the fact that this situation could also be particularly distressing to players.

 In this respect, the MGA reminded all its licensees that, in accordance with the Commercial Communications Regulations, all commercial communications must be socially responsible, especially in light of the current situation. It added that any direct or indirect reference to Covid-19, or any related circumstance, would be considered to amount to a breach of this regulation.

 Amongst other requirements, the MGA emphasised that at no point must any commercial communications made by licensees, directly or indirectly:

  • encourage antisocial behaviour;
  • suggest that gaming can be a resolution to social, educational, personal or professional problems;
  • suggest that gaming can be an alternative to employment;
  • a solution to financial concerns or a form of financial investment;
  • portray gaming as socially attractive; or
  • suggest that solitary gaming is preferable to social gaming

 MGA Notice on COVID-19 and Sports Integrity

 In a statement issued on the 6th of April 2020, the MGA recognizes the fact that sports worldwide was disrupted to the COVID-19 pandemic, and consequentially, the betting sector is facing unprecedented challenges. The MGA added that since sporting events came to a complete halt, licensees were looking into alternative events on which players can bet on, including some having different risk profiles to those traditionally offered. These may include sporting events which are not run to the same professional degree such as amateur or minor leagues.

 The MGA also stated that amongst the alternatives gaming operators are turning to, e-sports is gaining significant traction. However, the MGA added that while many e-sports events are organised in a highly professional manner, others may not.

 In order to safeguard the integrity of such events, and warn betting operators of the risks involved, the MGA recommended the following:

  • Operators should consider that all esports events are now being run online, and therefore lacking the standard integrity checks done at events.
  • Operators should ensure that matches are not pre-recorded, and risk teams should be aware that esports matches are not always broadcast in real time, and there is often a pre-set delay between the actual match, and the public broadcast.
  • Operators should make sure that customers understand the distinction between esports, and virtual sports, whereby the outcome of the latter is determined by a random number generator.
  • Operators should look into whether tournaments benefit from integrity controls, and whether participants are professional, or otherwise, when deciding on which betting markets to offer.
  • Operators should seek information about the participants/officials involved in the esports events from communicative tournament organisers or from publicly available information.
  • Operators should maintain their betting integrity and fraud checks including making sure that participants/officials involved in esports events are not placing bets.
  • Tournament organisers, broadcasters and sports governing bodies (SGBs) should revise any policies regarding misuse of inside information so as to include also any participants or officials involved in their esports events.
  • Any suspicious betting activity should be reported to the gambling regulator.
  • Any other suspicious activity (not betting related) pertinent to an esports event should be reported to the corresponding SGB, and/or event organiser.

 To keep up to date with the latest developments on the legal ramifications of COVID-19, check out our dedicated website page or contact us on [email protected].