The German gambling regulator, the Joint Gambling Authority of the Federal States (GGL), has said it believes Malta’s “protective shield” for its gambling companies is not compatible with European Union regulations on recognition of judgments in another jurisdiction.
The GGL said it made a statement due to “numerous requests” for it to assess Malta’s controversial amendments to its gambling laws, amendments which say only Maltese courts can enforce judgments against Malta-based gambling companies.
The statement on Wednesday (August 23) followed Malta’s move in June to pass the law, which came in response to a deluge of lawsuits against online gambling operators in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands seeking refunds of losses incurred before online casino became legal.
However, the regulator said it does not expect to get directly involved with the issue.
Malta’s amendment involves civil claims by individuals, for which the GGL is not responsible, the regulator said.
Germany’s federal Ministry of Justice has contacted the European Commission about the issue, it said.
The regulator said it has so far limited its involvement to informing Germany’s federal states of its opinion.
In June, a spokesperson for the European Commission said the agency was in touch with Maltese officials, and was assessing the bill.
The commission’s press office did not respond to a request for an update on the review, nor did Malta’s Ministry for Industry and the Economy.
Germany's Federal Ministry of Justice confirmed that it has contacted the European Commission, which "has informed us that it has already approached the Maltese government and will closely follow the further developments and, if required, take the necessary steps".
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) said the scope of the Maltese amendments is “highly restricted”.
Its provisions only apply when the action “taken by an operator against a player or a player against an operator conflicts with or undermines the legality of the Maltese framework, and is related to activity which is lawful in terms of the Gaming Act and the other regulatory instruments applicable to the Malta Gaming Authority’s licensees”, an MGA spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.
“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,” the authority said in a statement.
But a gambling and lotteries attorney said that “Malta does go against EU law”.
“They can’t win this matter,” said Belgian attorney Philippe Vlaemminck.
The amendments violate EU rules on “jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters”, he said. “Even Maltese lawyers believe it cannot stand under constitutional law.”