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Malta Gambling Regulatory Body Cautious of Bitcoin

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The Gaming Industry is keen to embrace technological advances, says the executive chairperson of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), Joseph Cuschieri. However, there should be flexible regulatory frameworks that would innovate the industry to take advantage of the full developments that should also minimize risks to consumers.

One area the structures would be considered is the use of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin for gaming purposes.

Cuschieri said the currencies are gaining ground in Malta because certain financial institutions are being risk-averse. They are also adopting a very conservative approach. He said there has been a lack of oversight in the gaming supply chain and adequate audit trails in place.

Speaking to Malta Today, he said:

Crypto-currencies are an attempt to create a virtual currency, backed up by a technology block-chain that manages its transactions. I still see it as a risk, and the authority’s position is that we still do not accept crypto-currencies. The authority has received very few requests to accept crypto-currencies, and we have always refused- we are looking to adopting a national approach and given it’s a financial instrument we shall be collaborating with the Central Bank, the FIAU and the MFSA.

Cuschieri maintained that the MGA working with other entities will follow the conclusion of the national study currently underway.

Looking Toward the UKGC

MGA could sooner take a cue from the U.K. Gambling Commission (UKGC) which now sees digital currencies such as bitcoin as a cash equivalent. It views that its licensees could accept digital currencies as a payment method as contained in a new version of its codes of practice.

The MGA is the single, independent, regulatory body responsible for the governance of all gaming activities in Malta. It oversees both online and land-based gaming activities. It fuses the commercial needs of operators with a deep understanding of gaming legislation and practice.

The Lotteries and Other Games Act, 2001, charges the MGA to regulate the various sectors of the gaming industry competently. It would ensure gaming is fair and transparent to the players. It would also prevent crime, corruption and money laundering and by protecting minor and vulnerable players.

Outdated Gaming

The MGA is currently developing legislation to update its gaming regime. It plans to have a consultation period with stakeholders in September. The final draft will later be delivered to parliament for the new system to take effect in March 2017.

Cuschieri sees a much larger gaming industry in ten years. He expects a growing convergence between land-based and online products and the intersection between gambling product lines such as social gaming.

He added:

My vision is for Malta to become the Silicon Valley of the industry, and I think we are getting there.

He added that to reach the goal, Malta needs incentives, the right regulatory framework and the continued support of the industry.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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