The importance of Malta as an European online gambling jurisdiction was underlined this week when the head of the European Commission's Internal Market and Services division, Charlie McCreevy visited the Mediterranean island's Malta Gaming Authority and praised its officials for their professionalism.
More imporantly, perhaps, the Commissioner assured the Authority that he is determined to enforce EU law to ensure open borders for the online gaming industry.
McCreevy and his division has been a tireless advocate for the end to state monopolies and a fair and non-discriminatory gambling industry that allows the free movement of services between EU member nations. He has issued warnings to 10 member states to either change their monopolistic gambling policies or face prosecution before the European Court of Justice, and his efforts appear at last to be bearing fruit with significantly positive moves from some governments.
The European Court of Justice has classified online gaming as a service which falls within the principles of freedom of movement of services, something which McCreevy has repeatedly emphasised.
Malta is home to a flourishing online gambling industry, currently employing around 1 500 people.
McCreevy briefed officials on progress being made by the EC, saying that some countries were making changes by lifting restrictions, and he was determined that others should follow suit.
The island government's Finance Minister, Tonio Fenech, agreed with the Commissioner's position and said that the principle of the open market applied to online gaming.
"Some member states are raising moral issues, but this is clearly a protectionist approach to allow monopolies and limit competition," Fenech said, adding that Malta is insisting that the Commission proceed with infringement proceedings against the countries involved.