Malta has refuted allegations of its bill violating EU regulations. Legal professionals argue it challenges Dutch legal principles.
Dutch lawyers have heightened the scrutiny over Malta’s debated Bill 55, which extends legal safeguards for gambling entities licensed in Malta.
Priorly, Germany’s gambling authority, the GGL, expressed its reservations about the bill. Moreover, the European Commission has indicated its intentions to examine the bill’s alignment with EU legislation.
Benzi Loonstein, a reputable lawyer from Loonstein Advocaten, has officially addressed the Dutch Minister for Legal Protections, Franc Weerwind, elaborating on their stance regarding the bill. He emphasized that Bill 55 breaches EU regulations concerning the execution and adjudication of civil and commercial matters. Loonstein criticized the Maltese government for amending laws in a manner lacking transparency.
“This legislation seems to challenge Dutch legal principles, as well as those of other EU nations. Essentially, it appears as a reaction to consumers opting for judicial processes in their homeland, a right enshrined in EU agreements. The Dutch judiciary, consequent to this bill, might be incapacitated from arbitrating in cases involving Dutch clientele and Maltese entities.”
With the Netherlands inaugurating its regulated online gambling sector in October 2021, under the purview of the KSA (national gambling regulator), Loonstein opines that Malta’s revised gambling provisions could potentially impede the KSA’s enforcement of Dutch regulations and their clampdown on unauthorized operators.
He further mentioned representing complainants against Maltese gambling corporations, indicating a potential impact on up to 500,000 Dutch citizens by MGA-licensed enterprises. He urged,
“We appeal to the Dutch authorities to champion the interests of this Dutch cohort and ensure Malta upholds the rule of law as stipulated in EU treaties. Furthermore, firms disregarding Dutch rulings should face license withdrawals or ineligibility.”
In response, Malta and its Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) have rallied in defense of their legislation. The aim is to shield MGA-licensed gambling companies from potential legal repercussions in other EU territories while operating under Maltese licenses. The MGA dismisses any transgressions against EU laws, pointing to the 2013 Recast Brussels Regulation which empowers member nations to decline recognition of legal decisions that contradict their own legal principles.
The MGA elaborates that Bill 55 intends to embed Malta’s enduring public policy concerning the gaming domain into the legislation. They contend that the bill’s purview is narrowly tailored, defining specific scenarios where MGA-licensed operators are immune to legal action, rather than an overarching immunity.
This protection extends only if the operator’s activities align with Malta’s Gaming Act, thereby limiting the bill’s influence solely to cases clashing with Malta’s own gambling directives. Nonetheless, this might still nullify several legal actions that other European nations might initiate, casting doubts on Malta’s broader gambling legal framework’s compatibility with European legislation. While the MGA maintains their stance based on the EU’s principles of free service movement, numerous European bodies, citing a 2017 exception by the EC for the gambling sector, beg to differ.