Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is a Maltese governmental department that is in charge of regulating and licensing any casinos whether land-based or online that wish to operate and provide their services under their jurisdiction.
Formerly known as the Malta Lotteries and Gaming Authority, the MGAs primary goal is to make sure that each and every gambling entity operating under their jurisdiction is conforming to their rules and regulations and thus providing a safe environment for their players with regards to fairness and protection of data.
As our main interest in the online gambling industry, we will mainly talk about MGA with regards to their remote licenses that can be issued to online casinos that are deemed good enough and reputable enough to operate under their jurisdiction.
The country of Malta was one of the first countries in Europe to allow and regulate online gambling after first giving out a license in the year 2000. Since then, the MGA has licensed more than 100 companies. Among these companies are online casinos, casino game software developers and other entities involved in the online gambling industry.
Any online casino that is given a license under the MGA is free to provide their services and products from their base in Malta. However, there may be other regulatory licenses required by online casinos that want to provide their product to citizens of other countries. An example would be, that any casino regulated by the MGA would also have to get licensing from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) in order for them to be able to provide their services to players from the UK.
What would happen if the MGA did not exist?
Essentially, it would just mean that online casinos would have to go elsewhere to get licensed and thus given the authority to provide their products and services to players. There are hundreds of online regulatory authorities out there with some of the other more popular ones being the UKGC and the Gibraltar Gambling Commission (GCC).
No matter who they choose, an online casino will have to get a license to operate its business in a legal capacity. Online casinos that are not regulated by any authority are illegal and will no doubt be a cash grab before ultimately getting shut down when caught. For that reason, always check to make sure that an online casino has the necessary licences before handing over any money.
If an online casino has a number of licenses from reputable regulatory authorities and also has approval from associations such as eCogra, you are probably in safe hands at this online casino. It would still pay to read a few reviews from players at the casino though, as this is where you are going to get the general feel from other players.
What would happen if there were no Regulatory Authorities?
It really does not bear thinking of if there were no regulatory authorities keeping our best interests at heart when we are gambling online. Online casinos would basically be able to make it up as they go along. They would not have to adhere to any rules other than those set up by themselves.
You could say goodbye to fair gambling, to your personal and financial information being looked after securely. You could also kiss goodbye to the relatively good reputation that online gambling currently has due to this online regulation.
Without any kind of regulation, online casinos could determine their own random number generators (RNGs) for their games and products and essentially cheat players out of a fair chance of winning.
They could also put their players personal and financial information in jeopardy through not using the proper software such as 128-bit SSL encryption software. Furthermore, with no regulations in place, an online casino could just mix players funds with that of operating funds and therefore leave players penniless should the casino ever face financial problems.
To sum it all up, online gambling would not be a world that too many people would want to be a part of. However, we are fortunate that we do have regulatory authorities in place to keep everything above board and to keep the many online casinos out there, on their toes.
What Licenses does the MGA provide?
It is not just a case of a one size fits all license for any online gambling operator. What you will actually find is that there are various licenses granted depending on the specific gambling activities that will be taking place.
In terms of licenses for online gambling, there are four different classes:
Class 1 – A class 1 remote gaming license would be required by an operator that provides casino type games and/or lotteries. All online casinos would have to obtain this license without fail.
Class 2 – Any business offering fixed-odds betting such as an online bookmaker or sport betting enterprise, would have to have a Class 2 license to operate under the jurisdiction of Malta.
Class 3 – Any peer-to-peer gambling environments such as online poker sites would have to obtain a Class 3 remote gaming license to operate under the MGA.
Class 4 – In the case of Class 4 remote gaming license, this is essentially a business to business license that allows a gaming operator to host products from another software vendor.
These are just licenses that will usually allow online gambling providers to provide their services to the general public in Malta. However, this license alone might be enough for the operator to provide their services in other countries. In the case of the UK however, while the UKGC and the MGA work very well to ensure the safety of online gambling, they do still require that an MGA licensed casino would still have to earn a license from the UKGC as well.
Why is the regulation of online gambling important?
As we mentioned in the previous topic, there are tons of reasons why it is important for online casinos to be regulated.
We highly doubt that any player would be able to place any trust in an online casino if it was operating without any kind of license or regulation. We certainly wouldn’t and this is why online regulation is so important, as it brings a level of trust that the players can believe in. Regulation acts like a seal of approval, so when you see that a casino is being regulated by the likes of the MGA, you instantly feel a lot better about playing there.
We as players always want to know that we are at least being treated fairly when gambling online. We can all accept that the house is going to have an advantage but we want to be sure that this advantage is as advertised and is considered fair by regulatory authorities.
Another reason we need regulation for online casinos is for the protection of our transactions, personal information and financial accounts. We have to be able to trust them with this information and trust that they will protect it using the latest security technology such as 128-bit SSL encryption, sophisticated firewalls and by not letting anybody to have access to this information.
After seeing what has happened in the past with some other casinos, another regulation that players want to see enforced is that players funds are kept well away from operating funds for the online casino. If anything were to go wrong in a financial way in the casino, players would want to know that their money is still there and they can get it back.
Thankfully most of those regulations are now enforced by these gambling regulatory authorities such as the MGA. Which does help to give us a bit more peace of mind whenever we plan on enjoying some online gambling.
What common regulations do online casinos operate under?
There will be differences in the amount and types of regulations that an online casino will have to adhere to depending on which licensing authority they are under. What you will find, however, that most of them share the same goals and will usually want the same areas regulated but there may just be a few minor details that are different.
The following are just some of the regulations that most regulatory authorities will demand from any online casino operating under their jurisdiction:
- RNG testing performed at random by 3rd party testing house
- Separate account for player funds
- ID verification policies and procedures regulated
- Responsible gambling policies must be in place
- 128-bit SSL encryption must be used for financial transactions
Each and every one of those has been designed with the player in mind and thus that they are able to get a basic core level of protection no matter which online casino they play at. As mentioned previously, most online gambling regulators will want most of their online casinos to adhere to the above.
What type of Businesses does the MGA licence and regulate?
The Malta Gaming Authority essentially regulates all forms of gambling whether it is online or offline. Each of the different types has been listed out below so that you can get a complete idea of the types of businesses that they MGA licenses.
- Remote gaming license
This is the main license of importance to us and is what any online casino or software provider will have to apply for if they wish to obtain an MGA license. This license covers all remote gambling types such as casinos, sports betting, poker and lottery.
- Advertising lotteries
This is not a license for a lottery provider as such but is a license that is required by anyone that wishes to advertise a lottery.
- Amusement machines
This is a license for the physical amusement machines that you might find in casinos, pubs, clubs etc.
Land-based casinos are also licensed and regulated under the MGA in Malta and there currently four land-based casinos in the country that do have a license.
- Commercial bingo halls
Anyone running a bingo hall or arranged regular games of bingo are also licensed and regulated by the MGA.
- Cruise Casinos
Any cruise ship that is either berthed in Malta or in within territorial waters and that has a running casino onboard, must have a license with the MGA.
- National Lottery
Even the national lottery in Malta requires regulating by the MGA and Maltco Lotteries Limited are the current private owner of the national lottery in the country.
- Non-profit games
Even if you are running a game for no profit that involves any kind of wagering, a license from the MGA is still required.
- Racecourse bets & sweepstakes
All bookmakers that are present on-track at any race in Malta is required to have a license from the MGA.
- Skill games
Skill games are a relatively new form of betting where players take part or wager on e-sports.
What online casinos are regulated by the MGA?
There is a large number of online casinos that have done enough to earn themselves a license from the Malta Gaming Authority. They would have had to pass probity checks, submit a business plan and their statutory and operational documentation would have had to have been reviewed and accepted by the MGA.
Once the above has been done, their system then has to be reviewed and should everything fall in line, there is a good chance of a license being granted for a period of time.
Of the many online casinos that have managed to secure themselves licensing from the Malta Gaming Authority, we have listed a few that many of you will probably already know quite well.
- Guts Casino
- Royal Panda Casino
- Mr Green Casino
- Vera and John
- All British Casino
- All Slots Casino
- Slots Million
- Royal Vegas Casino
As you can see, there are some pretty big names there and a few award-winning casinos as well. That is just a small selection of some of the more popular online casinos that you will find that are licensed and regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority.
How does the MGA regulate online casinos?
The Malta Gaming Authority has long been seen as one of the leading online gambling regulatory authorities and while they might not be quite as strict as the UKGC, they still share the common goal of giving players a fair and transparent gaming experience.
Additionally, they want to promote responsible gambling to protect both minors and vulnerable players and also take an aggressive stance to prevent any kind of crime whether that is corruption, theft, fraud or money-laundering.
Some of their core goals are to:
- Protect vulnerable players from the potential dangers of online gambling
- Ensure that player rights are always upheld
- Consistently promote responsible gambling
- Ensure that all games and gaming devices are completely fair and safe
Before a license is even issued, there are a number of different steps an online casino has to take to be accepted by the MGA.
- A fit and proper test are carried out to ensure that those running the business are fit to conduct a business of this type.
- Next, the business plan is reviewed to ensure that a proper strategic plan has been put in place.
- The business operational and statutory requirements must then also be met. This involves the MGA examing the whole business in terms of any business processes, the games and the terms and conditions set out by the casino.
- The final step involves a 60-day roll out in a technical environment to test the systems and games as preparation before going live to the public.
Compliance reviews are also a part of any license agreement and the MGA demands that there are audits carried out after the first year of the license, after the third year of license and just before the license expires after five years with the potential of a renewal being granted.
Additionally, the MGA is permitted to request a completely random audit at any time which is to be carried out by a third-party independent auditor. These random audits will usually be ordered if the MGA has any suspicion of wrongdoing.
Should any audit not be complied with, an online casino could have its license suspended at best and terminated at worst.
As previously mentioned, the Malta Gaming Authority uses third-party auditors to carry out any audits. There are 14 of these auditors on the MGA website that they have listed as approved but we will list just a handful of them:
- Deliotte Services Ltd
- SG Auditing
Another part of the regulations is that a Key Official must be designated to represent the company and be the main point of liaison for the MGA to speak with. This key official must be a director of the company operating the online casino and is responsible for ensuring that all regulations from the MGA are adhered to.
RNG testing is also carried out as part of these audits and also at random by third-party testers. As you probably know, the RNG software aspect of a game is what determines your odds, so these always have to conform to the numbers that have been advertised or submitted to the MGA.
MGA often uses the help of eCogra to source and arrange this testing just to show that there are independence parties being used from the start of the process and right to the end.
Should we trust online casinos that are regulated by the MGA?
You should certainly be able to trust them more than you would if they were not licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority. As we have mentioned before a number of times, the MGA is one of the most reputable gambling authorities in the world and thus we would certainly trust any online casino that is licensed by them.
Even if you do think that one of their online casinos is not to be trusted for any reason, you can put in a complaint with the Malta Gaming Authority and they will investigate. They are not afraid of suspending or terminating a license that an online casino has received from them.
They are a point of contact and an authority that is on the side of the player. So if they have licensed an online casino, I would definitely give them the benefit of a doubt until anything suspicious were to happen.
Can we contact the MGA?
Absolutely and in actual fact, the Malta Gaming Authority highly encourages it. One of the areas that the MGA stands out is through its stance it will take on behalf of players that have been unfairly treated by any online casino under their authority. There have been many examples over the years when the MGA has taken the side of the player and upheld their complaint against an online casino and forced the latter to pay up.
This does not necessarily mean that you will always win a dispute as the MGA will also back the online casino if it feels that it is in the right.
There is a telephone number, email address and an email form that you can get in touch with the Malta Gambling Authority and you can be sure that your enquiries will always be followed up.
They do request that complaints are submitted via the online form when possible as they use a ticketing system to answer any issues and complaints about online casinos. The online form asks a lot of specific questions and is the best way to get all the information down in complete detail and in the right place.
There is also an excellent and in-depth F.A.Q section on the MGA website that might actually answer any issues that you might have. You might save a lot of time and trouble if you were to check that section first rather than going to the trouble of contacting the MGA directly.
Our Verdict: The MGA provides UK gamblers and indeed, international online gamblers with an online gambling experience that is safe, secure and completely fair.
There is little doubt that the Malta Gaming Authority is one of the most respected online gambling regulatory authorities out there. This is why it manages to attract so many quality online casinos that are looking for one of the best seals of approvals around.
This is what you can expect from the MGA:
- Your cash is protected
As part of the regulations of the MGA, online casinos are forced to keep all players funds in separate accounts from operational funds. This protects players in the case of an online casino having to shut down due to financial problems. They or any creditors are not allowed to touch that money as it is the property of the players.
- A selection of policies put in place to protect players
Policies are in place and regulated to ensure that casinos help prevent identity theft, your child being able to gamble online and a large number of different scenarios that could occur at an online casino.
- An authority that is on your side
Without a regulatory authority, consumers would not stand a chance in a dispute against an online casino. With the MGA, you have somebody in your corner that has the power over the casino to ensure that you get a fair deal.
- Results that are fair
Due to the MGA regularly auditing their licensees and having third-party testing houses check on the RNG of the gaming products on offer, you can be sure that you are getting the odds that are advertised by the company and thus a fair deal.
- A regulatory body that welcomes communication
The Malta Gaming Authority has always been known for its openness to communicate with consumers. They are always happy to investigate any claims of unfair treatment towards players and will often act as a mediator in any disputes.
- An authority that pushes for responsible gambling
While online gambling obviously makes the Maltese government a lot of money, they are strong believers in protecting players from the pitfalls that can occur when not gambling responsibility.
Summing everything up, if you ever see that an online casino has been given a license to operate in Malta by the MGA, you can immediately feel a lot safer about the future experiences you might have at that online casino.
For UK players, you even have a double layer of protection as the UK Gambling Commission insists that any MGA licensed online casino must also adhere to their own regulations services and products to UK players. This means that online casinos that any UK player wishes to use will in many cases have been licensed by a number of regulatory authorities.
With so many people watching how they operate, you can be certain that these online casinos are completely safe for you to gamble at.