From a customer point of view, it is very unlikely that you would face any legal action for playing at an unlicensed casino site. But there are other risks that you leave yourself open to should you choose to bet with one.
Casinos licensed in jurisdictions like Malta have been audited to ensure that the games they offer are fair and secure, that the platform they run on is secure, that your personal and financial data is safe, and that their business practices are robust and do not put their customers balances at risk. If you play at a site that has not been through this rigorous checking process then you could be playing at a casino with rigged games, or where your personal or financial data is hacked and stolen, or where the business goes into administration and your balance is lost.
Respected jurisdictions like the MGA protect the player against these outcomes and also provide a channel through which complaints can be heard and processed in the event of a dispute with the operator.
The MGA was established in 2001 to regulate online and offline gambling for businesses based in Malta. Like all regulators, their remit covers the following areas:
- protection of vulnerable people and children from gambling harm
- preventing the use of gambling for criminal activities like money laundering
- ensuring the integrity of the games and gaming platforms under the MGA license
- provide support to players in the case of disputes
On their website the MGA have published the following mission statement:
“To regulate competently the various sectors of the gaming industry that fall under the Authority by ensuring gaming is fair and transparent to the players, preventing crime, corruption and money laundering and by protecting minor and vulnerable players.”
One of the most important services for a player provided by the MGA is dispute resolution. This is necessary when a customer complains to a casino about an aspect of their service and is not satisfied with the initial response they receive. Disputes may arise over one or more of the following areas:
- Winnings – a player believes that they have not been awarded the correct amount of winnings from a game.
- Payout rates – a player claims that a game is not functioning correctly and pays out less than it should.
- Withdrawals – a player believes that funds are being withheld unfairly by the operator after a requested withdrawal.
- Player data – a player believes that an operator is not holding their data securely or has used it without consent.
The process for raising a complaint against an MGA casino is twofold. Firstly, the player must take the issue directly to the operator who are given 10 days to respond. If the player is not satisfied with the response then they can escalate the complaint to an Alternative Dispute Resolution entity who the license holder has entered into an agreement with under the terms of their license.
One of the most popular ADRs is eCORGA who also audit games and gaming platforms for MGA licensees. Your casino will inform you of who their chosen ADR is in the event of a dispute.
The ADRs role is to broker an agreement between the casino and the player. They do not charge for their service but you will only be given access to this service once you have exhausted the internal complaints procedure.
The good news is, due to the high standards set by the MGA, serious disputes with their licensees that escalate to an ADR level are uncommon. But as a player of course it is good to know that the option is available should you need it.
Like all good regulators, the MGA is also concerned with preventing problem gambling at its licensed casinos. To this end there are a number of tools made available to any gambler within their account pages. These enable you to do the following:
- Set limits on deposits, wagers and losses for a specified time period of days, weeks or months.
- Choose a ‘Time Out’ period during which your account will not be accessible. This ‘cooling off’ period cannot be altered by the player and your account will not be re-opened until it is up.
There has also been reports of a global ‘self-exclusion’ scheme, like that in the UK, that will allow players to exclude themselves permanently from every MGA casino. However, to date this scheme has not been implemented.
If you are experiencing problems with gambling addiction then we recommend that you seek help immediately. You can find a list of charities in Canada that can help on our Responsible Gambling page.
There are four types of gaming licensed issued by the MGA to cover both offline and remote gambling businesses. They are as follows:
Class 1 – To operate remote Gaming for Casino and Lottery games (games of chance)
Class 2 – To operate remote Gaming for Sportsbooks (fixed odds)
Class 3 – To advertise gaming services in or from Malta
Class 4 – To host and manage remote gaming operations (for B2B services where an operator sub-licenses a gaming platform (e.g. White Hat Gaming)
The licenses issued by the MGA cover a range of offline gaming activity, including bingo halls, casino cruises, lotteries, and amusement arcades, but do not cover horse racing or spread betting.
If you are gambling online in Canada outside of Ontario then it is likely that you will come across a casino licensed by the MGA before too long. More than half the sites we review at The Casino Heat are regulated in this jurisdiction and reports indicate that around 10% of the world’s online gambling operators are based on this small island.
Just like Gibraltar, a tiny British overseas territory on the Southern tip of Spain, Malta has attracted gaming businesses with a robust regulatory framework and favourable tax rates. Shareholders who receive dividends from a business can claim back 85% and income tax sits at a flat rate of 35%.
Malta’s position as a gaming hub is evidenced in its hosting of the annual Summit of iGaming Malta (SiGMA), an event attracting industry leaders from across the globe to network, workshop and discuss the future of every aspect of gambling from tech to regulation.