Saturday September 21 ,2013 : MALTA WORKSHOP ON INTERNET GAMBLING
Public discussion examined recent ‘watered down' EU resolution on internet gambling regulation.
A public workshop on internet gambling wound up on Malta this week after several experts gave their views on the industry and its importance to the Malta economy as a licensing jurisdiction, and discussed the recent EU resolution on the industry.
The event was organised by the European Parliament Information Office in Malta in collaboration with the Malta Business Bureau, and was attended by a slew of high-powered experts including resident European Parliament MEP Dr. Roberta Metsola; Malta chief regulator Reuben Portanier; Ewout Keuleers from the European Gaming and Betting Association remote gambling trade body; Edward Zammit Lewis, Parliamentary Secretary for Malta's competitiveness and economic growth department; Alan Alden from the Remote Gaming Council; George Debrincat, chair of the online gambling section at the Chamber of Commerce; Stefano Mallia, the European Economic and Social Committee’s rapporteur on online gambling and Charmaine Hogan, policy officer at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Internal Market and Services.
On the agenda was a range of topics that included the development of Malta's online gambling sector and its impact on the local economy, EU developments and responsible gambling and consumer protection.
Dr. Metsola explained why she had voted against the resolution on internet gambling in the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee recently , saying that after 400 amendments from member states, the content was very different from that originally presented by rapporteur Ashley Fox.
There was a great deal of pressure from MEPs of member states where gambling is governed by national monopolies, she claimed, emphasising that it was important to strike the right balance in regulatory issues.
"I am optimistic that if [Malta] manages the sector well we can reach a situation where our leadership is recognised rather than trampled upon,” she said.
EGBA's Ewout Keuleers noted that Malta was one of the first states to join the EU, has been one of the most successful in terms of economic growth, and that the decision to become a creditable licensing and regulatory jurisdiction for internet gambling companies had been a significant contributor to that success.
He said that national standalone regulatory solutions are not enough for internet gambling as a cross-border industry, and while the EU wants to take greater responsibility and action, progress was still needed toward legally-binding holistic legalization.
The original draft report on online gambling by British MEP Ashley Fox was very much focused on the need for EU action in the sector, said Keuleers. However, organised opposition from the two largest political groups had watered down the content of the resolution, resulting in political compromise rather than substantive progress toward EU action.
The outcome included recommendations that may please both protectionist nations and the industry, but raised questions over the practical development of regulatory harmony, he said, urging Malta to play a role in pro-actively designing a high-level holistic strategy for European online gambling.
Edward Zammit Lewis, Malta's Parliamentary Secretary for competitiveness and economic growth, encouraged EU institutions to depart from the traditional and current debate on peripheral issues and delve deeper and closer into the more substantive matters of gaming regulation.
"As a country, we must ensure we operate this sector to the highest possible standards, and make sure that the industry is equipped to continue delivering for the Maltese economy – contributing to economic growth and employment,” he said.