Malta To Challenge Council Of Europe Convention

Definition of illegal sports betting could harm the Maltese economy

The publication Malta Today reports that the parliamentary secretary for competitiveness and economic growth, Jose Herrera, has announced that Malta is to seek a European Court of Justice ruling following the Council of Europe's draft convention on sports competitions, claiming that its definition of illegal betting in the draft convention "hinders the free movement of services within the EU."

The convention's intention is to prevent global manipulation of sports competitions and promote international cooperation, but the Council's point-of-consumption-like definition of illegal sports betting as "…any sports betting activity whose type or operator is not allowed under the applicable law of the jurisdiction where the consumer is located," has raised Malta hackles.

Herrera told newspaper: "If ratified, this would mean that licensed gaming operators in Malta would be hindered from extending their operations abroad unless they abide by the laws of the other member states.

"This definition would inevitably influence Malta's gaming sector, and consequently Malta is seeking the ruling of the ECJ because if ratified, the new definition would hinder the free movement of services."

Herrera emphasised that Malta's reservations focus solely on the definition of illegal sports betting — and not the objectives of the Council; he argued that Malta's reservations were not addressed in the Convention, and the government therefore has no alternative but to seek an ECJ ruling.

Joseph Cuschieri, the chairman of the Lotteries and Gaming Authority – the Malta regulator – agreed that the convention draft was not acceptable, observing:

"Ever since Malta implemented rules on remote betting, in line with the laws regulating the free market an operator registered in Malta could operate across Europe with one licence… that of the LGA.

"Since the financial crisis, countries have been intent on implementing certain licence frameworks to tax these gaming operators. These frameworks are basically saying that even though a gaming company has a licence in Malta, it would need another licence to operate across Europe."

"The gaming sector will not end tomorrow. We will not allow anything to interfere in Malta's gaming sector."

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