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NEWS 13 February 2018

MGA begins first phase of investigation into Italian licensee holders

By Caroline Watson
The Malta Gaming Authority has launched an investigation into all of its current Italian licensees that may be potentially linked to organised crime.

According to sources close to the authority told Gambling Compliance earlier this week that this investigation is the first phase of a much larger probe into all of the Italian businesses based in the region.

The news follows an influx of police activity that has been targeting illegal online gambling operations.

Last week, Joseph Cuschieri, Chairman of the Malta Gaming Authority explained that he wanted to work on a collaboration with Italy’s Anti-Mafia Commission and any other authority that “needs to know the activity of Italian gaming operators in Malta”.

Prior to these comments, the MGA suspended the license of Phoenix International Ltd, which operated multiple gambling sites linked to Benedetto Bacchi, who is otherwise known as Italy’s ‘Betting King’. Bacchi was later arrested in an Italian police anti-Mafia action dubbed Game Over.

It came to light that Bacchi had been operating a network of data transmission centres that were linked to Malta-based sites, which in turn allowed him to avoid Italian gaming authorities and thus he would not have to pay local taxes.

Cuschieri explained to local media that “the press and the Italian public opinion have a suspicious attitude towards our gaming operators” despite the fact that the MGA has “very serious and transparent rules”. Nonetheless, he alluded to the fact that the MGA lacked “the investigation tools that the police and the judiciary have.”
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