Malta seeks European Court ruling over sport betting convention

Malta to request European Court of Justice’s opinion over controversial change in definition of illegal sports

Jose Herrera
Jose Herrera

Parliamentary secretary for competitiveness and economic growth Jose Herrera has today announced that Malta would be seeking the ruling of the European Court of Justice over the Council of Europe’s draft convention on sports competitions, claiming that the definition of illegal betting in the draft convention “hinders the free movement of services within the EU.”
The purpose of the convention is to prevent, detect and sanction national or transnational manipulation of national and international sports competitions and to promote national and international co-operation against manipulation of sports competitions between the public authorities concerned.
But in what has been described as an “inappropriate encroachment into the Maltese betting industry”, the Council of Europe is intent on changing the definition of illegal sports betting, which the draft convention describes as “any sports betting activity whose type or operator is not allowed under the applicable law of the jurisdiction where the consumer is located.”
“If ratified,” Herrera said, “this would mean that licensed gaming operators in Malta would be hindered from extending their operations abroad unless they abide by the laws of the other members states.”

“This definition would inevitably influence Malta’s gaming sector, and consequently Malta is seeking the ruling of the ECJ because if ratified, the new definition would hinder the free movement of services,” the parliamentary secretary said.
If the ECJ declares that the draft convention is not compatible with EU laws – namely the free movement of services and the free market– the Council of Europe would be prohibited from ratifying the convention unless it is amended.

Insisting that Malta’s reservations focus solely on the definition of illegal sports betting – and not the objectives of the council – Herrera argued that due to the fact that Malta’s reservations were not addressed in the Convention, the government will seek the ECJ ruling.

On his part an LGA chairman Joseph Cuschieri underlined that it is “unacceptable” that the convention is interfering in sports betting.

“Ever since Malta implemented rules on remote betting, in line with the laws regulating the free market an operator registered in Malta could operate across Europe with one licence, that of the LGA. Since the financial crisis, countries have been intent on implementing certain licence frameworks to tax these gaming operators. These frameworks are basically saying that even though a gaming company has a licence in Malta, it would need another licence to operate across Europe.”

“The gaming sector will not end tomorrow. We will not allow anything to interfere in Malta’s gaming sector," Cuschieri said.