Malta’s online gambling regulator is taking a wait-and-see approach towards allowing its licensees to handle transactions in digital currencies like Bitcoin.
Joseph Cuschieri (pictured), exec chairman of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), recently told Malta Today that virtual currencies like Bitcoin were gaining popularity in part because traditional financial institutions were becoming more risk averse regarding their dealings with online gambling operators.
Cuschieri said the MGA had received “very few requests” from licensees looking for authorization to handle Bitcoin transactions, and that the MGA had “always refused” these requests because Cuschieri still views the use of such technology by MGA licensees “as a risk.” Cuschieri said the MGA’s policy remains that “we still do not accept crypto-currencies.”
Nonetheless, Cuschieri said the MGA intended to take a proactive approach and was therefore looking at “adopting a national approach” to crypto-currencies. On this, the MGA planned to collaborate with Malta’s Central Bank, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and the Malta Financial Services Authority.
Whatever the MGA decides to do in the future, its current stance runs counter to the prevailing trend. The UK Gambling Commission just announced that its licensees can include digital currencies in their roster of payment options and the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission proposed earlier this year to allow its licensees to use “convertible virtual currencies.”
The MGA is currently developing legislation to update its gaming regime. There will be a consultation period with stakeholders in September before the final draft is delivered to parliament and the hope is that the new regime will take effect in March 2017.
Cuschieri said the MGA was looking to simplify its licensing regime, envisioning a day when the MGA would issue only two classes of licenses: business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C). This streamlined approach “will simply the compliance and approval processes,” and, more importantly, “do away with unnecessary costs.”
Cuschieri had harsh words for many of the European betting monopolies that have sought to protect their fiefdoms, saying the proper approach was to “desist from creating frontiers and barriers” that treat rival operators as “criminals.”