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Carl Brincat
Carl Brincat

Publishing its Annual Report and Financial Statements for 2020 on Monday, Malta Gaming Authority CEO Carl Brincat said: “The year 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered for the challenges the pandemic presented us with”.

The report, which covers the supervisory actions taken by the Authority, as well as the performance of the gambling industry and a forecast into the future, states that during the year, the MGA issued 69 warnings, suspended three licenses, and cancelled 12 while issuing 24 administrative penalties.

Additionally 30 compliance audits were conducted by the Authority’s Compliance and Anti-Money Laundering function, of which one related to a live studio.

Between January and December eight individuals were deemed to not be up to the MGA’s probity standards by the Fit & Proper Committee, mainly on the basis of mitigating the risks of money laundering and the funding of terrorism.

A total of 1,475 criminal probity screening checks were undertaken, representing an increase of 13.5 per cent compared to 2019.

In terms of AML/CFT obligations, 27 supervisory examinations on online gaming licensees were conducted by the MGA, of which 10 were full scope examinations, three were targeted, eight were thematic, and six were supervisory meetings.

The Authority explains that it conducted a total of 65 interviews with prospective MLROs and key persons carrying out the AML/CFT function to determine the knowledge and suitability of each candidate, of which 40 we approved, 17 were conditionally approved and eight were rejected.

Regarding advertising, the Commercial Communication Committee at the MGA acted against 10 adverts or promotions that it found to inappropriately exploit the COVID pandemic.

Also, notably, the report reveals that during 2020, compared to 2019, a staggering 58 per cent increase in the number of requests received by the Player Support Unit took place, to reach 5,625.

This, according to the MGA’s report, potentially stemmed “at least partly” from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on player behaviour.

It was a promising year for international cooperation at the Authority, with it having aimed to boost knowledge sharing and cooperation by hosting a delegation of members from the Lotteries and Gaming Board and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

It also received 67 international cooperation requests from other regulators and sent 47, with the majority referring to requests for background checks as part of an authorisation process.

Regarding investigations, during the period under review, the Authority was a direct participant in 20 different investigations across the globe, relating to the manipulation of sports competitions or breaches in sports rules.

The organisation also signed agreements with a number of organisations, locally and abroad, including with the International Cricket Council, the Swedish Football Association, the Darts Regulation Authority, the World Professional Billiards & Snooker Association and the Slovak Football Association.

It also signed an agreement with Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analyses Unit, updating an existing MoU, seeking to bring forth better cooperative instruments for the supervision of AML/CFT in the gaming sector.

An MoU was also agreed with the Dutch Gambling Authority (Kansspelautoriteit), by which the two authorities will support each other by sharing best practices and information in support of the responsibilities at law, whilst also discussing policy matters of interest.

In his comments accompanying the report, Dr Brincat praised staff for their role during the challenging year, and explained how their achievements serve as a strong foundation for the organisation, stating:

“I am proud of the Authority’s employees who worked tirelessly to ensure that we continued to perform the functions required of us at law.

“Keeping the ship steady during a challenging year serves as a strong foundation for us to look ahead with renewed commitment to keep building on the positives and improve on our shortcomings, to reach new heights in our regulatory approach”.

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