The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has published its Annual Report along with Financial Statements for the year ending December 31, 2021. The report summary offers an overview of the Authority’s activities throughout the year with a few more granular insights. There are also forward-looking statements for the mid-term outlook based on current information. Following the report are about 50 pages of detailed statistics about the land-based local casino industry and worldwide online providers licensed in Malta and operating under the authority of the MGA.
With an eye toward improvements in efficiency and effectiveness, the MGA identified and implemented several changes in the way it does business. Bureaucracy was reduced by revamping the application process for online operators. Internally they also changed the way compliance matters are addressed as well as the process of providing guidance for rectifying operator shortfalls.
Bitcoin gambling was addressed through amendments to the Authority’s existing document: ‘Guidance on the use of Innovative Technology Arrangements and the acceptance of Virtual Financial Assets and Virtual Tokens through the implementation of a Sandbox Environment.’
The amendment provided an extension of the sandbox framework to December 31, 2022. A full accounting of the amendment can be found in PDF format in the full report.
Minimum RTP Plummets Seven Percentage Points
In May, a policy paper was published related to amendments to the minimum RTP threshold after closed consultation with “consultants, Business-to-Consumer operator, and Business-to-Business operators,” but no player advocates were involved. The amendment lowered the previous online minimum theoretical return to player percentage from 92% to 85% in a blow to players and a boost to the bottom lines of casino operators and game providers that provide slots on a revenue share basis.
The MGA does not require casinos to provide players with the RTP of any given game and was already seen as a less desirable jurisdiction than those that do require disclosure. Many players on industry forums have noted how the same game will have different RTP when provided to an operator in a jurisdiction like the UK that requires full disclosure and at casinos that do not.
The gap in long-term returns can now be in double digits. Many game developers provide a range of RTP maths for the subscribing operator to choose from. Very few online casinos divulge this information unless they have to, but players still have some resources to make an informed choice.
This change in the report was couched in the explanation that: “Such amendments aim to streamline the minimum Return to Player percentage applicable to licensees across all sectors.”
Other changes related to specific criteria for key functionaries with no in-depth details provided in the report summary.
A public consultation was offered “on the Applicability of the System and Compliance Audit Service Provider Guidelines to Financial Audit“ as a way for the public to better understand the proposal which is of far more interest to industry stakeholders than to players.
No Licenses Suspended in 2021, Just Seven Canceled
Returning to the changes in “Effectiveness and Efficiencies” mentioned earlier, the Authority executed more administrative penalties and warnings than it had in previous years which may be why license cancellations were down to a total of seven for the calendar year 2021. Twelve licenses were canceled in 2020 and 14 were revoked in 2019.
No licenses were temporarily suspended in 2021, three were halted for compliance reasons in 2020, and eleven were suspended in 2019.
According to the report: “Over 1,150 criminal probity screening checks were undertaken on individuals, shareholders, and ultimate beneficial owners, key persons and other employees, and companies from both the land-based and online gaming sectors.”
Also, three applications for licenses were rejected outright while “13 individuals and companies were deemed not to be up to the Authority’s probity standards by the Fit & Proper Committee, mainly on the basis of mitigating the risks of money laundering or funding of terrorism.”
MGA Chair, Dr. Ryan C. Pace opened the report with the following statement: “Looking back at my first full year as Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the MGA, I am encouraged by the progress the Authority and the Board have made in 2021. We have worked tirelessly to perpetuate the vision of the MGA becoming a world-class gaming authority, implementing best practices, and effectively regulate a thriving gaming sector in a manner that supports the evolution of the sector.”
Source: The MGA publishes its 2021 Annual Report and Financial Statements, September 15, 2022