The outgoing head of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) does not expect the country will ever implement affordability checks, or make any drastic changes in the direction of the policies it pursues, after he departs.
Speaking at SiGMA Europe in Malta on November 14, MGA CEO Carl Brincat called affordability checks “very political in nature” and said they reflect how liberal or conservative lawmakers are as there is a “level of intrusiveness with them”.
“Malta is liberal on that front,” Brincat said, adding that he “really doesn’t” see “Malta going down that intrusive route”.
The MGA announced on October 27 that Brincat would not seek a new term and said that it was beginning recruitment for a new chief executive. The new head of the MGA will be appointed on January 26 next year, according to the authority.
Brincat also discussed Malta’s new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Code for the remote gaming sector, which was published on November 8.
He admitted it needed to be voluntary as some of its requirements are “cumbersome” and that he expects it to be adopted mainly by larger operators, with medium and smaller operators abiding by most of the guidelines.
He said the code intends to help operators showcase things they are already doing, as well as “setting out a roadmap” and providing guidance about best practices.
When questioned about the need for a new policy on minimum capital requirements, the MGA CEO jokingly said he assumes “suppliers and players want to get paid”.
On October 10, 2023, the MGA announced a closed consultation with relevant stakeholders to gather their input and feedback on the proposed minimum capital thresholds that new licence applications would be required to meet.
Brincat dismissed claims that the requirements would stifle innovation, in particular among start-ups, but insisted that Malta wants “responsible companies that are aware of their commitments”.
When Brincat’s panel was asked how the MGA should change, his fellow panellists praised the regulator for its “open door policy” that they said fosters collaboration and for protecting its operators and existing ecosystem.
However, Joseph Attard, the director of international compliance at Entain Group and a former employee of the MGA, said his “one wish” would be for the regulator to “address the supply gap in compliance expertise”.
Speaking on a separate panel later in the day, MGA deputy chief regulatory officer Brandon Debattista discussed how the MGA has long been approaching the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the gambling industry and how its approach differs from the distributed ledger technology policy, which covers the use of cryptocurrencies and blockchains.
“AI is covered by the overarching gaming framework. The industry has been riding the AI wave for years, it's nothing new,” he said, adding that the key regulatory concern with the use of AI is transparency, which the MGA addresses by visiting operators and holding workshops to “ensure operators know how these tools work”.
Debattista said he could “not rule out introducing an AI policy in the future” but “for now we are very happy”.
Annalise Seguna, head legal counsel at the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA), said those in the gambling industry using AI also need to be aware of the EU’s AI Act.
“The EU is currently deciding on the final version of the act which means we must follow future discussions on the topic. We are looking to enact our legislation too, which we will put forward to legislators in Malta soon,” Seguna said.