Shakeup at Malta gambling regulator; Cherry acquires Web Resorts

malta-lga-cuschieri-cherryMalta’s Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA) has undergone a makeover, jettisoning its two top executives in favor of a new executive chairman. In October, CEO Reuben Portanier handed in his key to the LGA’s executive washroom after a five-year tenure, while chairman Mario Galea announced his own departure on Tuesday. Former Vodafone exec Joseph Cuschieri (pictured) will assume both their duties in the newly created role of executive chairman. Galea, who advised New Jersey regulators on the launch of the state’s online gambling market, will continue to serve the LGA in a consulting role.

Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness Edward Zammit Lewis told the media that Cuschieri had been tasked with “reforming the authority to make it more efficient and agile, strengthening the relationships with all stakeholders, strategically grow the online gaming sector and promote Malta as a globally recognized gaming jurisdiction.” The LGA has received widespread criticism from online gamblers over its recent handling of financial escapades at LGA licensees, including Everleaf Gaming and the now defunct Purple Lounge.

There’s no such cloud hanging over Swedish operator Cherry AB‘s Malta-licensed online gambling operations, which once again generated the most turnover in Cherry’s quarterly results. Cherry’s online operations, which includes the EuroSlots brand, reported turnover up 32%, active customers up 35% and deposits up 47% in the three months ending Sept. 30. But high marketing costs stemming from the launch of new brands like CherryCasino meant the group’s online division reported a SEK 10.2m (US $1.5m) loss, while group earnings were also negative at SEK 4.4m. This marks the second consecutive quarter of earnings losses, but Cherry has vowed to “continue prioritize growth before profitability” in order to establish its new brands.

Cherry also announced it has acquired a 49% stake in Curacao-based online gambling firm Web Resorts NV, which counts and among its operations. The deal will cost Cherry €3.3m in cash with a performance-based payment of up to €1m to follow. Cherry CEO Emmil Sunvisson said the deal would likely boost Cherry’s annual revenue by €1m. Cherry sold three of its own online gambling sites to fellow Swedes Betsson AB this February.