A hotly debated topic in the online gaming industry over the last decade has made a recurrence last week when the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) launched a consultation with regards to an universal self-exclusion system as part of their Responsible Gambling Regulations. A Preliminary Market Consultation Document has been issued that can be accessed online via the Maltese Government’s Electronic Public Procurement System (ePPS).
The topic has been debated numerous times in the past, but it never went any further than the consultation stage, mainly due to opposition from the casino operators. The idea is to set-up a unified system where a self-exclusion by a player at one MGA licenced casino would automatically result in being excluded at all MGA licensees.
Basically, a one-point approach where affected players do not have to scour through their records and apply a self-exclusion at every brand and operator they have registered an account in the past. With hundreds of casinos operating under the umbrella of the MGA, it is surely something the regulator, operators and authorities should debate as it would offer better protection for vulnerable players and potentially limit gambling-related harm.
Let’s take a look at where we stand today. The MGA is requiring from operators to offer players the possibility to self-exclude for a period of minimum six months. The player can decide whether the exclusion is limited to the site where he is activating it or across all brands from the same casino group.
The downside to the current regulation is that although a problem gambler can self-exclude at one property, he can simply open a new account at one of the other MGA licensed casinos and carry on playing. In essence, the current system offers little protection for vulnerable clients as they can set-up virtually hundreds of casino accounts. Excluding from them one by one feels more like just a drop into an ocean.
With the rapid growth in online gaming over the last year, the MGA has had to deal with vastly increased number of single self-exclusion requests. They exceeded for the first time one million applications for the year 2018, a year-on-year increase of over 30%. In light of these large numbers, a unified self-exclusion system makes perfect sense.
The United Kingdom and Sweden are already offering universal schemes where a single exclusion will trigger a countrywide exclusion for all online gambling sites that are licensed under their respective Gambling Commissions. Being launched in 2018 only, both programs are still in their infancy, but early reports show that they had a significant impact on problem gamblers. Combined with mandatory links on the gaming sites to counselling organisations, it vastly improves the chances for controlling and curbing the addiction among online players.
The MGA stated in their press release, that it would be a significant step forward in the its agenda to implement further control for the prevention of gambling-related harm, extending the criteria in Part IV of the Player Protection Directive, and Part IV of the Gaming Premises Regulations.
It remains to be seen whether the current MGA consultation will lead to unified system as all stakeholders involved from operators and game providers to players and the general public can submit their opinion until 31st May 2019 after which the MGA will decide on how to proceed.