A combined effort
24 August, 2011
Alan Alden, general secretary of the Malta Remote Gaming Council, outlines the organisation’s role on the island and within the industry, specifi cally in regards to the recently published Green Paper.
How important is the MRGC in the island’s remote gaming community, and the message it sends?
The MRGC is as important as its membership wants it to be. The composition of the Board and who is on the board is also very important, as it is with every committee or council. The MRGC has a very strong membership base and a hard working committee, when one considers that the committee are part timers and have no remuneration for the time spent doing MRGC work.
The three main messages that the MRGC has been sending out in the past years are:
1. One Voice
2. Responsible Gambling
3. Regulation not prohibition
By one voice, we mean that we need members, and we need them to use the MRGC to represent them wherever and however necessary. Most of the times the complaints of one member are also the complaints of a number of others.
Responsible Gambling is another area the MRGC wants to promote. We have organised courses for our members, participated in the CEN workshop and done everything we could to ensure our members are also capable of understanding and implementing responsible gambling measures.
By Regulation and prohibition we are emphasising our feelings towards those jurisdictions that are against online gambling. We know what happens when a common leisure activity is made illegal, it goes underground. That is where the danger is. Gambling has been there for ever, we need to regulate it and not prohibit it, it’s the only way.
What are the benefits of joining the MRGC?
The MRGC has done a lot for the remote gaming industry in Malta. We cannot always go public with what we are doing as some matters are very sensitive. We are transparent with the operators that are involved and they are kept fully informed. We use the need to know concept. The MRGC has actively lobbied, for want of a better word, with the Lotteries and Gaming Authority, and through this lobbying we have seen a number of issues resolved and openings created. To give just a few examples, the MRGC lobbied for years so that the Business to Business opportunities for the Class 4 licensees (host and manage gaming systems) are not restricted to local licensees. We also lobbied for a solution to a problem operators were having with inactive accounts with minimal balances. Another two very important areas lobbied were location of hardware, and live streamed games. We noted this year that all these issues were tackled and the operators are now much happier with the solutions.
We also carry out a yearly salary and this is the fourth year we are doing it. We have also started to include a comparative analysis with previous years. The scope of the salary survey was to stop the upward spiralling salaries being paid by remote gaming operators. It had got to a ridiculous stage and we decided that we should create a benchmark by doing this annual salary survey. It is pleasing to note that salaries have stabilised in the past years.
As an offshore EU member state, Malta is an attractive choice for many remote gaming operators. Have recent euro related economy crises been a cause for alarm for the MRGC?
Any EU negative event is worrying for the economy, and the remote gaming industry is not immune to these events. Although, there is a downturn it must be said that it does not suffer as much as other industries. The MRGC membership consists of large operators and also service providers and our membership fees are very low and so are not an expense that they would consider cutting first if revenues fall. I think the benefits we provide them are good value for money for their subscription fee paid.
The remote gaming industry has become very important for Malta as it contributes greatly to the GDP in many areas of the economy. We hope that the troubles do not affect the industry too negatively.
The remote gaming industry is rapidly evolving. How has the MRGC kept up with the pace, in order to remain a relevant voice?
The MRGC board is made up of 5 operators and 2 service providers. As I stated before we are part-timers with our main daily activity being involved in the industry. We are therefore very much up to date with everything that is going on. We also try to keep our members up to date with everything local and foreign through regular emails.
The Green Paper was recently issued – taking into consideration the MRGC’s reply, how will this affect operators?
The MRGC agreed with quite a bit that was stated in the Green Paper. What the MRGC cannot accept is that Malta’s licenses are not accepted across borders. Operators who have obtained licenses in other jurisdictions have done so not because they wanted to, or because they agree with the way things appear to be heading within the EU, but only for survival and competition purposes. We understand that something needs to be done to harmonise the licensing process and also satisfy the tax requirements of jurisdictions, but obtaining a license in every jurisdiction is not possible and a very dangerous road to take for the industry. We believe that we will end up only with monopolies in certain jurisdictions that are not attractive to private operators, exceedingly high costs and taxes that would cripple any operator (as is happening in France), no new ideas, no start ups, and apart from the operators the players themselves will not have a right of choice for best products and best prices. IT will be a while before anything concrete will come out of the Green Paper, but at least it was a step in the right direction as previously no one wanted to speak about online gambling at EU level. We hope that common sense prevails in the end for the benefit of everyone.
What does the future hold for the MRGC? What exciting developments does the near future hold?
The MRGC has done a lot and would like to continue to contribute in a positive way to the industry. We are always willing to meet up with operators, service providers and the Authority. Regrettably, communication with the Authority has not been very good in recent times. A lot has been happening at the Authority that is affecting new license applications, existing licensees and also service providers. A lot of good things have happened but there are a number of issues that are not being discussed with the MRGC as they used to be before. We hope that this situation changes and communication lines are re-established sooner rather than later. We believe that if we are involved in matters that will affect our membership and the industry at the beginning, a lot of unnecessary problems will be avoided at a later stage. Its important that the Authority and the industry work together. The Authority needs the industry and each licensee or potential licensee is their client. The licensees pay their wages and taxes and each one is important to the economy. The MRGC represents the industry and is bound to protect the industry in Malta but to be able to carry out its objectives it must be involved in any matter affecting the industry. We are sure that this situation will change as the Authority settles down after so many recent upheavals and will have more time for meetings with the MRGC.
BIO: Alan Alden has been the general secretary of the MRGC for a number of years. Alan has been involved directly or indirectly with the MRGC since the first meeting held back in 2004. Alan represents the service providers on the Board. Alan has 11 years experience in the industry and has been heavily involved in it both as the Secretary as well as in his capacity as consultant and auditor.
Prepared by Alan Alden, General Secretary of Malta Remote Gaming Council
Featured in EGR Jurisdictions Report 2011
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