Austrian stakeholders hit out at Malta’s Gaming Amendment Bill

Aleksandar Simonovic 10 months ago
Austrian stakeholders hit out at Malta’s Gaming Amendment Bill

The Gaming Amendment Bill 55, which was only recently inaugurated into Malta’s pre-existing Gambling Act, has come under fire from stakeholders in the European Commission and the Austrian government, claiming that Malta is seeking to “blatantly undermine EU law”.

Austrian stakeholders have pursued multiple lawsuits to win players’ refunds from Maltese operators. These legal actions come in light of the European Union (EU) ruling that an Austrian online casino monopoly is not against European law.

The recent bill will see the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) defend its licensees from these and similar lawsuits under two well-defined circumstances:

Firstly, if legal action undermines the robust provisions of the Maltese framework and secondly if measures are being taken against a licensee and its conduct was related to an authorised activity under Malta’s own Gambling Act.

In a statement made by the MGA it was confirmed that under the two aforementioned instances:

Foreign judgements that fulfil the aforementioned criteria shall not be recognised and enforced in Malta since the amendments are intended to clarify that such judgements are manifestly against the public policy of Malta.

The Austrian stakeholders that have initiated the lawsuits in question have claimed that this is clearly an attempt to circumvent what would normally be perfectly legitimate legal proceedings.

The bill’s controversy has now extended beyond this issue as it additionally involves EU law and the legal rights of players. Now garnering the attention of The Civil Justice Unit at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, which is currently assessing the recent legislation.

A consideration that must be contemplated is that the Mediterranean archipelago is only a year removed from its exclusion from the Financial Action Task Force grey list, subsequent to tangible improvements in its financial oversights.

The Gaming Amendment Bill was tabled by the Ministry for the Economy, EU Funds and Land, prior to its legislative approval, and has been deemed a risky step in terms of AML compliance by many.

In lieu of international scrutiny, the Ministry’s representative, Hon. Silvio Schembri MP, defended the bill stating that this action will strengthen consumer protections within Malta’s jurisdiction and that the regulator has the authority to “swiftly take action against non-compliance”.

Additionally, he also offered this statement:

Malta is the Silicon Valley of the online gambling industry due to its regulatory framework, which provides legal certainty and the optimum environment for gambling businesses.

The president of the Austrian gambling trade group OVWG, Claus Retschitzegger, has spoken in support of the Gaming Amendment Bill, claiming that Malta is well within legal rights even in light of EU law by rejecting court judgements that conflict with its public policy.

This law is not about the interests of the providers or the players, but about the protection of Maltese public order, in which gambling plays an essential role.

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