German Gambling Authority Questions Legality of Malta’s Bill 55 and Its European Compliance

The German gambling regulator, the Gemeinsamen Glücksspielbehörde der Länder (GGL), has expressed worry over Malta’s newly approved Bill No 55, which provides gaming operators with protection from responsibility for MGA-licensed operations. According to the GGL, the legislation may not be in accordance with European law, namely the Recast Brussels Regulation of 2013, which controls legal judgments between EU member states.

However, the GGL underlines that it lacks the ability to definitively verify the law’s conformity with European regulations. Historically, the European Court of Justice has had the final say on the link between EU and home laws.

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The GGL has transmitted its evaluation to the German federal states and has met with appropriate authorities. Given that the German Ministry of Justice has already requested an investigation by the European Commission, the GGL considers that additional action is superfluous.

Bill 55, enacted into law in June by Malta’s president George Vella, promises to protect gaming companies from legal liabilities deriving from their MGA-licensed grey market activities. If the operations are within the scope of their licenses, the legislation advises courts to refuse recognition or enforcement of foreign judgments against these operators.

The passage of Bill 55 follows judicial challenges in Germany and Austria that called into question the legality of gambling companies’ operations in these countries. Mr Green (owned by 888), William Hill, and PokerStars (owned by Flutter) have all challenged court judgments, while others have paid penalties as a result of similar lawsuits.

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Some legal measures have been focused towards Malta, the home of major gambling companies. Operators frequently argue that their operations are protected by the European Union’s free movement of services across its borders, which is based on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

While operators defend their operations by citing EU values, European governments and authorities point to a 2017 European Commission decision that halted infringement processes and complaints in the gaming sector. This ruling, according to their understanding, confirms their right to prohibit Malta-based operators from accepting bets in their separate countries.

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