Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 May, 2023 at 2:58 pm by Andre Camilleri
The German Federal government is aware of a draft law titled “Bill 55: Gaming Bill” which was discussed in the Maltese Parliament on 24 April and “it will closely monitor developments in this area,” German State Secretary in the Department of Justice Benjamin Strasser said.
This comes after an Austrian law firm and a German lawyer claimed that the Maltese government is “attempting to stop Maltese-licensed gaming companies from paying back the millions they have illegally appropriated from players” located in Germany and Austria.
Tabled last month, the aim of Bill 55 is written as being “to codify in law the longstanding public policy of Malta encouraging the establishment of gaming operators in Malta who offer the local and cross-border supply of their services in a manner compliant with local legislation, in an effort to encourage private enterprise in line with article 18 of the Constitution of Malta.”
The bill has been described by the lawyers as “attempt by the Government of the Republic of Malta to blatantly undermine European rule of law by blocking the fundamental rights of EU citizens and residents.”
The letter sent by the German lawyer to Economy Minister Silvio Schembri, PN MP Ivan J. Bartolo and others, accuses the Maltese government of wanting to introduce provisions in Maltese law which would prevent Maltese courts from enforcing sentences handed down against Maltese gaming companies in foreign jurisdictions.
In Parliament, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri who is responsible for tabling the bill, said that the “value added to Maltese economy from the gaming sector amounts to €1.5 billion yearly, which represents 9.6% of the GDP. This economic activity is very important, and doesn’t even take into account the second-order economic effects that this sector brings to the country,” said Schembri.
“The laws in this country stipulate that gaming companies are able to operate from our country and offer their services outside of this jurisdiction, provided they abide by regulatory obligations and protect vulnerable individuals from predatory practices,” he continued.
“The online gaming sector was never harmonized on a European level, meaning that various member states enacted contradictory laws in a fragmented way, leading to a situation where Maltese-based companies cannot legitimately offer their services in other jurisdictions.”
These restrictions on the European single market are not justified, said Schembri.
“That which we’re doing today should serve as a strong message that this government, and country, will always be a shoulder to lean on for Maltese families and businesses that operate on our shores,” he concluded.
PN MP Ivan J. Bartolo was in agreement with Schembri and said that, with the implementation of this law, “we’re trying to protect an industry that adds a lot of value to this country.”
In reference to a letter that he had received explaining the situation, written by the aforementioned lawyers, he said that “there are two sides to the coin, and we need to look at both. I want whoever wrote this letter to understand that it’s not the winners of these online games that started proceedings against the country; it’s only the losers that did so.”
What most worried me about the letter were the “subtle attacks” that were made with regards to my country, said Bartolo.
“They’re attacking the integrity, reputation, and rule of law of our country. It’s evident that certain things that have been reported on outside of Malta have created a reputational problem, according to the letter that I’ve received.”
“Having said that, we need to do everything possible to fix the problems that we’re currently facing in this country, including our reputation on the international stage, our integrity, and our rule of law problems.”
In a response to a question posed in the German Federal Parliament to the Federal Government, State Secretary in the Department of Justice Benjamin Strasser was asked what measures the federal government was taking bilaterally or at the European level to address the Maltese “Gaming Act” which aims to prevent the enforcement of German judgments in Malta.
The recognition and enforcement of German judicial decisions in other member states are generally governed by the Brussels I Recast Regulation, which “stipulates that a decision rendered in one member state is enforceable in other member states without the need for a declaration of enforceability,” Strasser said.
“The federal government is aware of the draft law titled “Bill No. 55: Gaming (Amendment) Bill,” which was discussed in first reading in the Maltese Parliament on 24 April” and “it will closely monitor developments in this area.”