Malta's economic policy encourages information technology operations, and the territory has invested heavily in state-of-the-art telecommunications. There are a number of Internet Service Providers in Malta, with clear interest being shown in offshore e-commerce development.
The most active e-commerce sector in Malta has been betting and gaming; there are said to be over 360 betting and gaming e-commerce operations in total on the island.
The Malta Communications Authority announced in March, 2002, that it intended to act as a catalyst for e-commerce rather than a regulator in the initial period of development. Although e-commerce - together with telecommunications and the country's postal service - is one of the statutory areas under the competence of the MCA, the Authority has revealed that during the developmental stages of the sector, its job would principally be to bring together the main players, provide advice and assistance, and explain the implications of new legislation as and when it is implemented.
'Given the current embryonic stage of development of this type of activity in Malta, we see ourselves acting more as a catalyst in this sector, rather than as a traditional regulator,' said Celia Falzon, Project Manager for E-Commerce.
She added that: 'We will be disseminating information, offering guidance and also help with regards to the legal implications of dealing and trading with foreign customers or merchants. We will also work to keep the public informed of their own rights when it comes to transacting electronically.'
The MCA administers Malta's Electronic Commerce Act which came into force in mid-2002.
In February, 2004, the latest e-Europe Progress Report revealed that Malta was significantly ahead of most EU accession countries in terms of internet access and utilisation of e-commerce. According to the report, 49% of Maltese homes were connected to the internet, a figure that placed the jurisdiction top of the league amongst the ten accession countries and three candidate countries (Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey) studied in the survey.
The island was ranked second place behind Slovenia in terms of Personal Computer ownership, with 58% of those polled claiming to own a PC. The study also found that Malta has 70 secure internet servers per million inhabitants, far higher than EU15 average of 48.
On the business front, the study found that 73% of Maltese firms had a website, also the highest proportion amongst the accession states. Of these, 20% had received orders online, whilst a third of the respondents reported that e-commerce generated over 1% of their revenues.
The Privatisation Unit of Malta's Ministry for Investment, Industry and Information Technology announced in January, 2006, that it had received binding offers for the sale of shares held by the Government of Malta in Maltacom plc. In May, 2006 Dubai Holding LLC, which is the ultimate parent company of Emirates International Telecommunications Malta Ltd (EIT is a joint venture between TECOM Investments and Dubai Investment Group), acquired the Government of Malta’s 60 per cent controlling stake in Maltacom.
In June 2007, Maltacom Group, was rebranded and renamed GO in a move that reflects the company's position as Malta’s sole quadruple-play organisation covering fixed voice, mobile, broadband Internet and digital television.GO came to life replacing the brands and respective logos of Maltacom, Maltanet, Multiplus and go mobile. The company has also announced three sub-brands under the new GO banner – GO Plus, GO Business and GO Mobile.
In August 2007, the Malta Communications Authority (MCA) granted rights of use of radio frequencies to 3G Telecommunications Limited, for the establishment and operation of a third generation (3G) mobile communications network. This was completed in the case of Vodafone and Go Mobile in August 2005.
In January 2008, Maltese telecoms provider GO, announced a multi-million euro investment in a second submarine cable linking Malta to Italy.
According to GO, the cable links the Mediterranean island to the Italian mainland via Interoute’s pan-European network, which connects 85 cities in 22 countries across 54,000 cable kilometres of fibre.
The submarine cable project, known as GO-1 Mediterranean Cable System, was completed by the fourth quarter of 2008, and was entrusted to an international consortium made up of Alcatel-Lucent and Elettra.
GO Chairman Sonny Portelli explained that the company would be implementing the new submarine cable system so that it can offer further resiliency for its existing international links by having a more diverse route.
“The new submarine cable will augment GO’s international capacity and cater for projected demands for broadband services which will be increasing in the coming future, especially with projects such as Smart City. Moreover, it will give GO the possibility to procure broadband capacity from Interoute,” Mr Portelli stated.
“In practical terms this means that GO now possesses world class connectivity, which in turn allows us to provide services to the most demanding clients," he added.
Speaking with regard to the project, Malta's Trade and Industry Minister Austin Gatt commented: “What is happening today is very significant. This is the most fundamental building block in the edifice we call ‘The Smart Island’. We will be anything but smart if we continue to live in fear of disconnection from the rest of the world.”
GO Director Deepak Padmanabhan added: “This multimillion euro investment is a vote of confidence from GO’s majority shareholder – EIT – in both GO and the Maltese Islands. Once the new cable is deployed, Malta will have a first-class communication backbone which serves the needs of the islands for the present and future. This is an important step to achieve the Government’s goal of making Malta a centre of excellence in ICT."
GO CEO David Kay explained that the cable will link St. Paul’s Bay in Malta to Mazara del Vallo in Sicily, making the physical route of the cable different to that of the existing one that links St. George’s Bay to Catania. He further revealed that the cable would be 290km long and have four fibre pairs, of which initially only one will be lit.
The DWDM terminal equipment was initially equipped for two wavelengths at 10 Gbit/s each. Compared to the 2.5 Gbit/s available on the existing cable, this augmented the available capacity nine times.
In Malta the cable lands at GO’s existing premises at St.Paul’s exchange, whereas in Sicily it lands in a landing station provided by Interoute in Via Abetone at Mazara. From there, the cable is backhauled through Interoute’s PoP in Mazara to the rest of their pan-European network. In Sicily, the cable landing station is operated and maintained by Interoute.
“The new submarine cable network complements our strategy of growing our data, hosting and managed services business lines. Moreover, this project demonstrates GO’s investment capacity which is linked to the country’s need to become an ICT hub in the Mediterranean," Kay stated at the time.
Alcatel-Lucent designed, manufactured and commissioned the submarine cable system, based on its dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) technology and cables, with the ability to be upgraded easily and cost-effectively in the future. Elettra was be responsible for the marine survey and laying of the cable. Elettra is a Telecom Italia Group company which specializes in survey, installation and maintenance of submarine cable networks.
Interoute's network is the largest in Europe. The company’s fibre optic network consists of twelve rings across more than 54,000 route kilometres of lit fibre, and has the capacity to carry a petabit (a billion megabits per second) of traffic.
Interoute’s Renzo Ravaglia announced that: “Interoute is pleased to be a part of this historic venture, made possible through the EIT/Dubai partnership. With this cable, GO and Interoute will open up opportunities for Malta in the European Union, North America, the Middle East and beyond. It will physically link Malta directly into Europe’s largest communications platform, making access to London, Paris, Amsterdam and Rome almost as easy as connecting Valletta and Gozo.”
In September 2008, the European Commission confirmed Malta’s high ICT ranking, recognising it again that year as "well advanced in information society, with many benchmarking indicators significantly above the EU average."
In its i2010 mid-term review (Preparing Europe’s Digital Future) the European Commission recognised Malta as Europe’s undisputed leader with regard to the indicator of basic public services for enterprises being fully available online.
"That leading position gives Maltese business a unique competitive advantage over all other businesses in Europe due to the fact that they are the only businesses in the entire European Union to benefit from a complete range of services online," the government observed.
Maltese basic public services available online for Maltese citizens are at 92%, the second best ranking in Europe compared with the European average of 51%, the Maltese authorities further revealed. The rapidity of the increase in these services was also noted by the Commission, which observed that in 2004, only 33% of Maltese public services to citizens were available online.
Broadband penetration in Maltese households as a percentage of households with an internet connection exceeds the European average, showing a greater take-up of Broadband among Maltese internet users. Maltese businesses are the 4th best connected in Europe to broadband and Malta’s population is the 5th most covered by DSL coverage in the EU.
Malta’s businesses use technology more than the average of their competitors in Europe, and the jurisdiction well exceeds European averages in integrating e-business in internal processes and in the use of ERP and analytical CRM systems, the government stated.
The ratio of Maltese employees with ICT skills is the 5th largest in Europe, and the ratio of ICT specialists in Malta is also ahead of European average.
The important contribution of ICT to Malta’s economy is indicated by the fact that Malta’s economy enjoys the third largest contribution to its GDP from the ICT sector, and the fourth largest employment ratio in the EU.
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Communications, Austin Gatt, remarked that these rankings: “once again confirm the rapid pace with which Malta is realising its ambition of becoming ‘the Smart Island’. The Smart Island means smart business, smart employees, smart schooling, smart government and smart public services. We have been confirmed as European leaders in some of those sectors and in any case very good performance on all of those fronts."
He went on to add that:
“The i2010 mid-term review is an opportunity for us to refine our weaknesses. We want to do more to stimulate take up among Maltese businesses, especially SMEs and the MCA’s work in this regard, in partnership with the GRTU and the Chamber of Commerce should improve our rankings even further by the end of the i2010 programme term."
“But the real challenge remains attracting and training more people to achieve specialist training in this sector. SmartCity will mean that we will exceed several times over our current, albeit high, rankings in ICT contribution to GDP and ICT specialist employment."
"We are getting ready for this challenge by opening up every possible opportunity for ICT training to anyone interested in taking that opportunity up. But we need to do more to get more people interested."
The Minister concluded: “The EU’s i2010 mid-term review is certainly cause for satisfaction for Malta. But the regatta is not over and we have to work harder to get further faster.”
See below for specific information on e-commerce in Malta, or go to Offshore-e-com.com for an extensive analysis of the commercial possibilities, legislation and taxation of e-commerce.
ISP and Hosting Services
The main telecommunications provider is Maltacom PLC and there are already ten or more ISPs in Malta.
In October, 2002, the Government signed an agreement with Microsoft Corp under which they will together be exploring the possibility of converting Malta into a regional hub for information technology. The partnership will see the development of various IT sectors that will benefit including education, which is critical to any society, incubation of services built on Microsoft technology, and a research academy to foster the development of new software ventures in Malta.
“Having Microsoft in Malta proves that the government’s policy, for these last two years, is producing the desired results and is managing to create interest among the large companies. The government intends to create a long-term relationship with Microsoft,” said Minister for Justice and Local Councils, Dr Austin Gatt.
“Together with Microsoft, we have identified three projects that will be implemented immediately. Microsoft will be helping the government to combat piracy by providing their expertise and knowledge to law enforcing people. Besides, campaigns will be launched to make people aware of the need to respect copyright,” he added.
The second initiative is a Microsoft IT academy in Malta. This offers courses in various Microsoft technology and leads to certifications in various IT fields.
“Furthermore, another three projects have been identified for the long term. These are the creation of an incubator in Malta through which knowledge from Microsoft is transferred to the Maltese industry to develop together services built on Microsoft technology. This would be one of the best initiatives the country could obtain because it will provide the opportunity to develop business process which could be subsequently marketed abroad. Another long-term initiative is integrating the Maltese language on the Windows XP. Another project that will be explored is the further development of the dot net platform which is used throughout the world for web development,” said Dr Gatt.
In June, 2004, the Maltese government signed a more extensive strategic partnership deal with Microsoft which resulted in the US-based software giant providing support for the government's new information technology initiatives. The agreement was signed by the Minister of Information Technology, Austin Gatt and the chief executive officer for Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa, Jean Philippe Courtois and will lasted for five years. The agreement ensured that Microsoft provided assistance in the implementation of a number of initiatives in the field of e-government, security and education.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi observed that it would help Malta promote itself as an investment centre and spur economic growth. The agreement would also secure government departments favourable prices for software licences, thus helping to ease public expenditure, explained Dr Gatt.
"The ICT sector in Malta is set to play a vital role in building an export-oriented, knowledge-based economy. The government welcomes every effort that can drive ICT development forward and Microsoft has been at the forefront of these efforts," the IT Minster commented.
Meanwhile, Mr Courtois observed: "Still in its first weeks as a member of the European Union, Malta stands as an example to the other EU accession states in its embrace of the Lisbon Agenda's technology road map."
In December 2007, a consortium of Malta’s leading e-business organisations was created to help companies establishing a business presence in the jurisdiction.
The consortium, known as eBusinessMalta.com, was launched at the iGaming events held at St. Julian’s between November 27th and November 30th, 2007. It is made up of company and fiduciary services providers (CSB Group and eManagement Ltd), a hosting & co-location facilities provider (BMIT Ltd), an electronic-payment solution provider (iGlobal Payments (iGP) Ltd), a recruitment agency / portal (VacancyCentre.com, operated by CSB Group) and a law firm specialising in corporate and commercial law (Zammit & Associates - Advocates).
CSB Group (established in 1987) and eManagement Ltd. (member of the HBM Group, established in 1991, with offices in Curacao, the Netherlands and the BVI amongst others) assist companies with respect to their Set-up and Incorporation; Regulatory and Licensing Consultancy; Directorship and Management Services, Accounting and Secretarial Services; Back-Office and Support Services, and Fiduciary and Trustee Services.
BMIT Limited (established in 1995) provides hosting facilities for Internet based businesses, and has grown as a leading online gaming service provider in Europe. BMIT specialises in co-location in Malta for iGaming Operations.
Global Payments (iGP) Ltd, established in 2002, provides real time card payment transaction services over the internet whilst also assisting in bank account solutions.
VacancyCentre.com, operated by CSB Group, offers recruitment services to various local and international businesses, and also assists in residency and work permit applications and relocation to Malta.
Established in 2005, Zammit & Associates - Advocates, is a legal practice focusing on business law, with a predominantly international outlook. The firm’s strengths lie in the areas of financial services, e-commerce, intellectual property, contract law, gaming law, ship registration and employment law.
E-BusinessMalta.com was launched at the first ever iGaming events held in Malta, the iGaming InDepth 2007 (Bingo & Skill Games) and The World Poker Congress 2007. It is the intention of the consortium to visit various other eBusiness related events, including shows, conventions and fairs in London, Hannover, Chicago, Miami, and also Macau in Asia.
In September 2007, the Prime Minister of Malta, Lawrence Gonzi unveiled the masterplan for SmartCity Malta, a new self-sustained industry township for knowledge-based companies to be developed by Tecom, owners of Dubai-based SmartCity, in partnership with the Government of Malta. SmartCity Malta, located in Ricasoli, in the southern area of Malta’s Grand Harbour, seeks to build a knowledge-based industry cluster, primarily serving the ICT and media sectors. The main component of the masterplan is a commercial complex that provides over 100,000 square metres of intelligent office space. This complex forms the core business infrastructure for SmartCity Malta's knowledge-industry community.
Over 30% of the land for SmartCity Malta is open to the public, featuring green boulevards and avenues, an amphitheatre, a lagoon, a coastal route, and vista points on the edge of a coastal cliff. There are three urban squares and a main shopping parade, also a small-scale conference centre, as well as hotels, catering to the needs of the business community and visitors to the companies based there. The masterplan also features a residential complex. Around half of the residences will be located in the vicinity of the main shopping area, while the rest will consist of villas and townhouses stretching along a coastal footpath. Under the terms of the agreement, the Government of Malta has agreed to make available nearly 358,000 sq m of land to develop the knowledge-based township.
The final roof slab for the first office building was laid in April 2010 and on 10 October 2010 the first building was inaugurated by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.
SmartCity Malta will attract an investment of at least USD300 million, making this project the largest foreign investment initiative in the ICT sector in Malta.
The project will provide a substantial boost to Malta’s construction, hospitality, maritime, services and retail sectors. At today’s prices SmartCity Malta is expected by 2014 to be making an annual contribution of some EUR534 million (US$725 million) to Malta’s GDP. This makes SmartCity Malta the single greatest new contributor to Malta’s economy ever to have been secured through foreign direct investment.
SmartCity Malta is projected to generate 4% growth in the Maltese job market. According to the government, over an eight year period, SmartCity Malta will create 5,600 jobs with the possibility of increasing to more than 7,000, apart from the several hundred jobs created in the economy as a multiplier effect of the project. In addition to new jobs in Malta’s knowledge-industry, SmartCity Malta will bring about new employment opportunities in areas of administration, hospitality, retail, maintenance, security and logistics among others. The project is the largest job-creator under one roof in Malta’s history.
Construction of Phase II commenced in January 2011. Fareed Abdulrahman, SmartCity's CEO, explained that: "“Phase II is another major milestone at SmartCity Malta following the completion and inauguration of Phase I. We are well geared for the expected recovery of the world’s economy and confident that Malta will be the hub for ICT/media cluster developments in the Mediterranean region”
The government has a project to implement an e-government system in the country within the next few years. Amongst other features, the e-government project is expected to provide the facility to effect all payments of taxes and licenses through an online system with the use of credit cards.
In early 2005, Malta's Parliamentary Secretary, Tonio Fenech launched a new online tax return submission system for individual taxpayers in the jurisdiction.
According to Mr Fenech, individuals will now be able to submit their income tax forms online, make any pending tax payments over the internet, and view up to date information regarding their Tax Statement and Tax Return Statement.
Meanwhile, the e-Malta Commission had been officially launched. Its main task is to educate the Maltese population, commercial sector and industry about the electronic revolution. Malta has invested heavily in information technology both at government level and in the private sector over the last few years.
The Malta Financial Services Centre (MFSC) is said to be considering a strategy to put Malta on the map as one of Europe's major online financial centres with the facility to enable Malta to become the first dedicated centre for electronic payments in the world. The first measures that the MFSC proposes involve steps to boost the economy and create high quality employment for professionals. There is a particular shortage of software and IT support engineers and the MFSC has highlighted the need for a 'digital strategy' to double the country's current number of graduates within the IT sector over the next ten years and continue to develop its online training programmes for school leavers and the unemployed. According to the MFSC the percentage of Maltese with degrees in computer studies is a mere 2.1 per cent compared to 5 per cent in the UK.
The MFSC also explains that there are 'fundamental problems' that must be tackled such as increasing the university's small number of computer laboratories - currently there are only 3 labs with 20 workstations each. It states: 'The organisational structure of the university means that there is insufficient forward planning of resources to meet the demands of government economic initiatives.'
Reports in May, 2003, suggested that there was growing interest from the United States online gaming industy in setting up Maltese based operations. Chairman of the Lotteries and Gaming authority Alfred Muscat said while no formal approaches had yet been made by US gaming firms to his department, he thought it would not be long before they happened.
The Malta Lotteries and Gaming Authority published new regulations in April, 2004. An applicant for an e-gaming license must be a limited liability company registered in Malta and with a physical presence in the jurisdiction, and prospective licensees will be expected to pass a fit and proper persons test, in addition to satisfying a number of other regulations preventing fraud and money laundering.
In June, WorldMatch became the first firm to gain an online gaming licence in Malta. Describing itself as an innovative concept in the online gaming industry, WorldMatch will give the likes of casino operators, airline companies, cruise liners and internet portals access to the gaming sector without any commitment in terms of management, technology, finance or legal matters. The firm has so far agreed six contracts. Alessandro Fried, the general director of WorldMatch explained at a press conference that Malta was chosen as the company’s base due to its recent accession to the European Union, and the island’s strong legal framework
"Gaming is a very delicate and sensitive business which cannot but be treated with respect and a high sense of ethics, observed Mr Fried. "Instead of closing their eyes to the reality of gaming, in Malta they came up with a serious piece of legislation," he added. The launch ceremony was attended by senior members of the government including Parliamentary Secretary Tonio Fenech and the chairman of the Maltese Gaming Authority, Joe Zammit Maempel.
In September, 2005, Zeturf, a Malta-licensed online gaming operator, said it would appeal against the decision by a French court to prevent it from offering gaming services via the internet to the French market.
Zeturf offers its gaming services through servers in Malta, but it was successfully argued in court that a French company, Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) has, since the 1930s, enjoyed the exclusive right to organise betting activities on horse races in France.
The case is of particular significance to Malta, says George M. Mangion of PKF Malta. Malta too had offered a seven-year monopoly to a lottery operator, thus temporarily preventing competitors from operating on Maltese turf.
As a rule, EU member states operate an open policy that shuns monopolies, but the rules on freedom of services are complex and sometimes tortuous. It all hinges on the individual member state's desire to protect its local monopolies from unbridled competition.
Despite Zeturf's appeal, says Mr Mangion, the court's decision thus far may have serious repercussions on other foreign online operators involved in cross-border activities.
'In line with the praxis of international jurisprudence, once Zeturf is a Malta-registered company, the execution of the decision meted by the French courts must be acquiesced by a Maltese court. But at this stage one may ask, is it legal for a French citizen to place bets on a foreign registered gaming website?
'Websites offering paying bets are not licensed in France. There are no licences for remote gambling operations. Indeed, prohibitions of online gambling are common in Europe. In Norway, parliament has taken steps to ban Norwegians from gambling online with foreign companies. In a case in Italy last year, the Italian Supreme Court ruled that Italy's restrictive gambling policies were consistent with its obligations under current European Law. The court ruled that gaming restrictions were justified to protect public order.
'In the Zeturf case in the French court it was argued that the Malta based-bookmaker seemed to be conducting its horse racing bets using a PMU database. This led to the protest by PMU on the alleged abuse of its intellectual property and rights rather than on the prohibition exercised by a state monopoly to inhibit cross-border gambling services.
'In its decision, the court took the view that Zeturf by accepting online bets without PMU prior authorisation had inflicted an illicit disturbance to PMU.
'It is curious to note that the French court also ordered the Malta-based ISP to sever the power supply to Zeturf. One may argue that all things being equal the French court has no jurisdiction over an ISP in another country.
'The case should ruffle a few feathers among the lobbyists of the single market. It is a moot point, whether the strategies being employed by the French monopoly lay bare a genuine desire to bring about a diminution of gambling opportunities to protect its citizens. However, in the light of recent cases in Holland and Germany, it would seem that a state which actively seeks to stimulate demand for gambling products, would have some difficulty justifying its national gaming restrictions, were it called upon to do so by the European Commission.
'Ewout Keuleers, an attorney at Brussels who has discussed the case, says that it is only "a question of time" before the restrictions to cross-border online gambling faced a growing number of legal challenges. Indeed, the European Court, in a November 2003 judgment (the Gambelli case) stated, that public interest considerations may justify limitations on the free movement of services, providing the objectives to be achieved were not disproportionate to the restrictions imposed.
'But the veil of hypocrisy ought to be lifted. There is ample evidence that most of the member states do not have as their central objective the restriction of gambling opportunities but the swelling of treasury coffers.
'The developments in this case are very important for Malta, an emerging online gaming centre of repute. It may well be that the sweet aroma of its success in attracting quality operators has percolated in the taste buds of other member states leaving a spasm of envy. But that is the rule of the game. It should be a level playing field where states can compete for inward foreign investment based on a well formulated and regulatory regime.'
In June 2011, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that a monopoly in an EU Member State can only be justified if findings prove that gambling related problems actually exist and a particularly high level of consumer protection is granted.
In October, 2005, Betfair announced the launch of its new operation in Malta, enabling the pioneering firm to offer its peer to peer poker games over the internet.
"Exchange poker, our first product to be hosted here in Malta, is already proving to be a great success with our customers. We expect to launch other games products from Malta in the near future," stated Steve Ives, director of Betfair Games.
By August, 2007 letters of intent had been issued to 76 companies, and 36 applications to operate in Malta were still pending. This is in addition to the 84 e-gaming companies already licenced to operate from Malta.
The rush of applications from e-gaming firms to register in Malta was prompted by the UK government's announcement that only companies based in territories on its so-called 'white list' are able to market their services in the UK from September 1, when the Gambling Act 2005 came into force. It has been estimated that this could effectively ban one thousand firms from advertising in the UK.
To gain a place on the UK white list, countries must meet stringent new standards which are designed to stop children gambling, protect vulnerable people, keep games fair and keep out crime. Countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes Malta, are automatically accepted, and so far, the Isle of Man and Alderney are the only non-EEA territories to have made the white list.
Malta, it seems, is clearly a favoured jurisdiction. The Lotteries and Gaming Authority issued a statement informing all potential remote gaming licensees that due to an unexpected increase in the number of applications received for new licences, the Authority was not in a position to guarantee the processing of new applications within the normal time-frames.
The influx of e-gaming companies will also benefit the government, which stands to raise substantial revenue in taxation and license fees, Mario Galea, chief executive of the Lotteries Gaming Authority, told the Times. However, he added that the real benefits won't be felt in Malta until these firms actually transfer their physical operations to the island.
Malta Enterprise, the government body responsible for promoting investment, trade and enterprise development, showcased a handful of its successful outsourcing companies at the UK’s premier outsourcing event – Outsource World – in May 2007, at the Business Design Centre, London. Participating in the event were:
- 2i, an independent QA and test lab with vast experience in Software Quality Assurance and Software development, offering outsourcing professional services related to all aspects of the field for software and computer hardware development companies, with focus on functional testing, localisation testing and QA. Customers include Tele2, Intelcon, Market Dynamics Inc, KPMG, AON, Malta Maritime Authority, Government of Malta.
- Ascent Software, an established near shore software development provider with experience in the retail, billing, insurance, finance and postal verticals. In addition Ascent also offers a number of special services including optimisation techniques, genetic algorithms and fuzzy logic controls. Organisations benefiting from Ascent’s solutions include Abacus Billing, Body Shop, Dunstan Thomas, Practical Finance and Malta Post.
- Relevant newcomer Bizfront provides IT outsourcing, based on highly skilled and experienced resources, focused on achieving excellence. Their customer base is growing with projects for e-government, healthcare, banking and the manufacturing industry underway.
In his speech during the IGaming Seminar in October 2009, Tonio Fenech, appointed Malta's Minister of Finance, said that the government's long-term strategy had been successful and was bearing fruit. He explained that the Lotteries and Gaming Authority had processed over 500 applications for remote gaming licenses and that the industry contributed significantly to job creation.
In June, 2010, Malta disagreed with the conclusions of an EU Competitiveness Council meeting which adopted a definition of illegal gambling as: “gambling in which operators do not comply with the national law of the country where services are offered, provided those national laws are in compliance with EU treaty principles".
Meanwhile, European Commissioner Michel Barnier announced the issue of a Green Paper to consult on internet gambling regulation and by December 2010, all 27 member-states agreed to develop cross-border solutions to online gambling and gave their backing to the Green Paper. The Paper attempts to gain an insight on how individual member countries deal with issues arising from online gambling such as best practices to tackle fraud and money-laundering, studies into problem gambling and establishing whether online gambling has a clear legal standing following numerous decisions by the European Court of Justice and national courts. Instead of attempting to introduce Europe-wide legislation, Barnier's paper is designed to construct a legal framework within the EU.
Malta, which has developed a highly successful electronic gaming industry, has taken note of some recent European Court of Justice rulings that apparently support attempts to restrict Europe-wide regulation in favour of local monopolies, and of national legislation which appears to contravene the principles of the freedom of services, such as that in force in France, and fears that it may suffer if a new, illiberal regime is voted through based on the Green Paper.
Malta joined the EU in 2004, and became the first EU member state to regulate internet gaming in May 2004 with its Remote Gaming Regulations under the Lotteries and Other Games Act 2001. Malta has subsequently attracted more than 250 remote gaming companies and issued over 350 licences. These businesses employ about 5,200 people in Malta, and service around 10% of the world's internet gaming market. They generated tax revenues for the government of EUR26.9m in 2008 and EUR52.5m in 2009.
The Maltese government says that the Competitiveness Council's definition does not properly take into account that Malta has a very advanced regulatory regime in full compliance with EU legislation.