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Malta vetoes EU strategy on manipulating sports results

Island moves to protect its flourishing online gaming industry

Malta has used its veto to block an EU strategy aimed at introducing national measures to combat the manipulation of sports results.

Putting forward its case in Brussels last week, Malta said it feared some member states may use these measures to bypass general EU rules permitting international gaming companies to operate freely across the bloc.

Malta’s stance, aimed at defending its flourishing online gaming industry, was taken during a meeting of the EU’s Education and Sports Council.

Through this strategy, the EU wanted member states to be able to restrict technological access to illegal betting in accordance with national legislation.

If we believe in free movement of services, then Malta is on the right track

However, Malta vehemently opposed the wording of the text, fearing it gave member states opposed to the free movement of online gambling companies carte blanche to block them accessing their local markets.

Expressing Malta’s commitment to combating match-fixing in sport, Parliamentary Secretary Clyde Puli said the Government would not agree to this strategy without the insertion of specific wording on the gambling activity’s geographical origin.

Since the other member states disagreed, Malta voted against the conclusions, which were unable to be adopted since they needed a unamious agreement.

During his intervention, Mr Puli argued the regulation of internet sports betting fell within the ambit of the EU’s internal market and it was not up to sports ministers to take this type of initiative.

According to current rules, an online gaming company based in Malta can offer its services in other member states.

Although some member states disagree with this concept as they claim they should be able to control their market, the EU has always defended the right of free movement of services.

Gaming industry sources praised Malta for its stance: “Malta cannot afford to have countries using this new policy as an excuse to block online access to Maltese online gambling sites in their territory,” the sources said.

“We already had many attempts in the past from large member states such as France and Italy trying to stop companies operating in other EU member states to access their lucrative gambling markets.

“If we believe in the free movement of services, then Malta is on the right track.”

Thanks to legislation, tax incentives and well-prepared human resources, there are hundreds of online gaming companies registered and operating from Malta.

Certain EU member states made various attempts to block these companies operating in their territory.

However, since the EU considers the industry as another service to benefit from free movement, it has taken steps against counties that tried to restrict their markets by imposing protective measures.

Profits from the online gaming industry are estimated to contribute some eight per cent of Malta’s GDP.

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