Malta has been the first European Union member state to regulate online gaming, and from its inception, Malta has proven to be a jurisdiction of choice for companies looking into establishing their operations in and providing their services from Malta. The legal framework enacted provided the parameters within which licences were issued by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and licensees regulated by the same. Malta's reputation as a go to jurisdiction was solidified by a number of internationally recognised remote gaming operators and providers choosing to establish themselves on the Island.

Malta's body of legislation was further strengthened in 2018 with the introduction of a new regulatory framework to govern the obtainment of licences and the ongoing monitoring of licensees. Compliance, supervisory and enforcement functions of the MGA were enhanced to better meet the Authority's objectives and further solidify the Authority's position as a respected and well-established regulator. With added emphasis on responsible Gaming and the prevention of Money Laundering, the MGA has likewise given the required importance to such areas and provided, and continues to provide, the needed guidance to the industry, operators and service providers alike.

Malta is also renowned for being the first jurisdiction worldwide to have introduced a clear legal and regulatory framework in relation to VFA, Blockchain and Fintech. Such technology has seen a steady interest from gaming operators who consider incorporating Virtual Financial Assets (VFAs) and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) into their operations. The MGA has recognised this and in its strategic mission to remain an avant-garde iGaming jurisdiction, it issued a Sandbox Framework that explores the use of the Blockchain technology within a controlled regulated environment.

Today, the gaming industry in Malta is reported to be the 3rd largest economic sector and is responsible for more than 7,400 full-time equivalent jobs, which represent 4.8% of the local workforce. The significant growth of the industry in Malta was not only boosted by its comprehensive legislation but also by the service providers who can provide a one-stop-shop to operators and suppliers alike, ranging from corporate services to licensing, ongoing compliance advice, co-location services, hosting services and online payment solutions.

Additionally, the industry also boosts a diverse and knowledgeable human resource pool. Whilst noting that the industry is always on the lookout for talent, it is undisputed that over the years Malta has become a leader in having experts and trained personnel for the industry. Malta is today in a position to attract highly specialised professionals through tax residency incentives like the Highly Qualified Persons Rules and through permits like the Key Employment Initiative. In addition, being an EU member state, opens the doors to millions of EU nationals who can find employment and reside in Malta without the need for a work permit. Thus, gaming operator established here can rest assured that it will be very unlikely for them to face shortage of suitable candidates.

Whether an iGaming operator wants to start from a small temporary office or a fully-fledged headquarters located in one of the most-sought after business areas, Malta has got the solutions. The Island boosts internationally renowned business parks that offer all-inclusive serviced office space or recognised real estate brands that can give access to prime commercial developments.

Malta has got it all and truly offers a 360° approach to anyone interested in setting up or relocating here, however, this does not mean that the industry and the jurisdiction have not been faced with challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic has presented one of the main challenges to the industry. Whilst this has not impacted the whole industry equally and in the same manner, certain types of activity have faced considerable hardship. This can be said in the case of B2C, Type 2 operators who have seen all sporting events on hold and causing their activity to die down. The industry has, however, risen to the challenge to ascertain that it is able to survive such adversities. Whilst hoping that the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic is now behind us, it is paramount that the industry continues to thrive and continues to be on its way to full recovery.

Whilst noting that challenges will continue to arise, Malta remains a leading jurisdiction with an infrastructure that is able to overcome potential challenges. From a well-respected authority, a robust and sound legal framework to a vast array of other industry players which are likewise very knowledgeable in their service provision.

In conclusion, one may say the last year or two have been characterised by change and challenges for Malta as a leading jurisdiction for online gambling. It has faced numerous obstacles and continues to deal with the same. However, taking into consideration Malta's long-standing repute in relation to its gaming framework, it will undoubtedly overcome and in the process strengthen its position further. In its strategic role as a leader in Europe and within the global gaming sphere Malta will indisputably continue to shape the industry.

This article was first published on the iNTERGAMING SiGMA Today newspaper of the 17th November 2021.

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