Malta did not have a big presence on the global map for decades as it was mostly known as a small tourist spot in Europe. Malta decided to change its global image and financial fortunes by deciding to embrace the online gambling industry in early 2000.
Malta went on to become the first European Union (EU) state to regulate online gambling and establish the Malta Gambling Authority (MGA) which is now one of the most respected gambling regulators in the world.
Casino operators flocked to Macau to get a registered gaming license as it would allow these operators to run offshore online casinos throughout Europe because of the Malta license. Malta had only two gaming licenses in 2000 that allowed offshore gaming services. However, that number skyrocketed to 300 gaming licenses in 2018.
The online casino industry generated $1.4 billion in tax receipts for Malta in 2019. To put that into perspective, it is over 12 percent of Malta’s GDP.
Mafia and Money Laundering Allegations
Some of the biggest gambling brands in the world have a gaming license from the MGA. Top brands like William Hill, Ladbrokes, Unibet, Paddy Power and GC Sports all have MGA licenses. The online gambling industry also created thousands of jobs in Malta as these offshore gaming operators opened offices and established a base in Malta.
While things looked good for Malta’s online gambling industry, recent allegations have cast a dark shadow on Malta’s gambling industry. Reports suggested that a number of licensed online casinos in Malta were part of a money laundering racket that was run by the Cosa Nostra.
The Cosa Nostra is the Sicilian Mafia who have allegedly targeted Malta licensed casinos to wash dirty money for the Mafia and make it clean. Reports suggest that over $74 million was washed via RaiseBet24.com on behalf of the mafia.
Malta Might Move Away From Online Gambling
A whistleblower made a number of such allegations in 2017 and further investigation into the matter show that the MGA had violated its gaming procedures on multiple occasions between 2012 and 2014. The MGA has been accused of poor supervision and not doing enough to prevent money laundering from taking place at its licensed casinos.
Malta has the option of distancing itself from the online gambling market or making significant changes to its gaming regulations to prove that all of these alleged loopholes have been properly addressed.