Dr. Joseph F. Borg is currently a Senior Advisor to WH Partners, a law firm specializing in Gaming, Corporate, IT, Telecoms and Intellectual Property Law. He also lectures Gaming Law at the University of Malta and is the Secretary General of the Malta IT Law Association. Before joining WH Partners he occupied the post of Chief Regulatory Officer of the Lotteries and Gaming Authority – Malta. Joe was also an elected Member on the Board of Trustees of the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR), a position which he held throughout 2012. He had originally joined the Authority in March 2007 as Director Legal and Enforcement and has occupied this position for almost 4 years. Before joining the Authority, Joseph, acted as a Legal Counsel to Vodafone Malta Limited for three years.
Joseph was conferred with an LL.M. in Information Technology and Telecommunications Law at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow), with Distinction. Earlier, he was awarded the LL.D. from the University of Malta, after writing and successfully defending a thesis entitled, ‘Protection of Trademarks Against Domain Names’. In November 2000, Joseph graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Legal and Humanistic Studies. Joseph went on an Erasmus Exchange in 2002 at the Facolta di Giurisprudenza of the Universita’ degli Studi di Bologna.
In 2009 he completed a Regulator Development Program organized by the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas (UNLV). In 2012 he was awarded a certificate in Casino Management by the UNLV.
EEGReport Magazine: Esports betting is a whole new landscape for many European states, however this is not the case of the open market of Malta. Could you give a brief introduction about Maltese licenses in an overall point of view and shed light on the esports licensing procedures?
Joseph: The Maltese licensing system is game neutral and does not in any way limit any games that are predominantly based on chance, to be licensed and operated, in or from Malta. There are four classes of licences that are divided as follows:
- Class 1 – This licence covers those games where there is risk taking on repetitive games by random events – e.g. casino games, slots, lotteries.
- Class 2 – This licence covers fixed odds betting.
- Class 3 – This licence covers operations in which the licensee does not take any gaming risk but simply provides the environment for players to play against each other or to compete for prizes that would have been pooled by the those participating in the games – e.g. poker, bingo or other P2P games.
- Class 4 – This licence allows operators to provide games and platform service for other operators. It creates a B2B relationship between operators of other classes and a Class 4 licensee – thus creating a network functioning on the same platform.
Betting on an eSports event is considered to be no different than betting on any other event. Whether it’s political elections, song contests, sports events or eSports events, fixed odds betting is licensed under the Class 2 remote gaming framework. On the other hand, if the betting services are provided in the form of a betting exchange or through a totalizator, then the required licence would be a Class 3.
EEGReport Magazine: Earlier this year, all news pointed that Malta will start offering Skill Based Gaming Licenses. Has this process helped the route to Fantasy Sports regulation?
Joseph: The Skill Games Regulations (S.L. 438.11) have indeed come into force at the end of January. In terms of the said regulations, all games the results of which are predominantly dependent on skill and which offer the possibility for the participant to win a prize in money or money’s worth, now fall under the remit of the MGA. However, this does not mean that every operator that provides such games requires a licence. Only controlled skill games require a licence under the Skill Games Regulations, and to date the only game that was designated as a controlled skill game is Fantasy Sports.
Since January, the MGA already issued a number of licences under this framework, including a licence to the largest fantasy sports provider in the world, Draftkings.
EEGReport Magazine: What are the necessary steps that need to be taken by Skill Game operators to comply with the MGA license, how is the taxing done and what is the expiry date of the licenses?
Joseph: A licence under the Skill Games Regulations will enable a body corporate to offer skill games with prize in, and, from Malta, in a regulated manner which gives players enjoying such services the peace of mind that they are playing with a regulated and serious entity.
The licensing process shall ensure that the people involved in the operation are untainted with illegality and have the reputation and expertise to ensure that the business is operated successfully and in a compliant manner. Furthermore, the MGA shall also review and establish whether the proposed games are skill games or games of chance taking into consideration certain characteristics of the game.
An operator needs to ensure that player protection mechanisms are implemented to safeguard all consumers and must comply with the minimum requirements established in the Skill Games Regulations, which include segregation of players’ funds, possibility of player exclusions and a player complaint system.
A Key Official must be appointed, whose regulatory role will be to personally supervise and have access to the licensed operation, ensure the licensee’s compliance and act as a liaison between the licensee and the MGA.
A skill games licence is granted for a term of five years which may be subsequently renewed.
The scope of gaming legislation in Malta has always been to be technology neutral in order to give operators the space they require to be innovative and differentiate themselves from other operators. Although we have not witnessed significant innovation to the games available to players, the Skill Games Regulations should have a positive impact on this situation whereby operators may now also dedicate their resources to creating new, licensable skill games which will give players a varied gaming experience.
However, the main focus is player protection and in particular the legislation imposes safeguards relating to the:
-Fairness of the game delivered to the player;
– Protection of minors and vulnerable persons; and
– Keeping gaming free of crime and money-laundering.
Furthermore, the player deposits are protected in the same way as they are protected in online gambling.
Tax is 5% on GGR capped at Euro 466,000.
EEGReport Magazine: The treaties of the European Union guarantee a free market for goods and services. The MGA license can be used for any country which hasn’t explicitly legislated that DFS falls under their existing gambling legislation. How has this worked out so far? Will this be the case in the newly regulated Czech Republic or is it the case in Romania?
Joseph: It is hard to tell and a lot will depend on the interpretation of the respective Czech and Romanian laws. If one looks at the situation in the US, there are almost as many States that consider Fantasy Sports as a game of chance as there are States that consider it to be a game of skill. Probably we will have the same situation in Europe. One should keep in mind that Fantasy Sports is not a totally new activity in Europe. It has been popular with football fans for a very long time, even before the era of computers. Media companies and sports federations also have an interest in it, since sports newspapers and football federations have been providing Fantasy Sports for quite some time. It is true, however, that this has not become as popular as it has become in the US. That said, lobbying by such organisations may sway in favour of looking at Fantasy Sports as predominantly based on skill.
EEGReport Magazine: As we know, media companies and sport teams who want to sell advertising and sponsorships to betting operators must comply with the advertising directives of each state. Does this apply for DFS and eSports?
Joseph: Again, this depends a lot on the respective jurisdiction and on whether Fantasy Sports and DFS are considered as activities requiring a gaming licence in that particular jurisdiction.
EEGReport Magazine: Recently the MGA followed through on the idea that online poker could also be classified as a skill game. What are the developments of this process? Do you think that it will change everything in the already regulated markets in Europe where poker considered as gambling?
Joseph: I believe this would be a long shot. In Europe, practically every Member State already considers poker to be a game of chance. Personally, I believe that poker, particularly poker tournaments, are predominantly based on skill and there is empirical research that backs this. However, it is now too late to change the course of history. Poker in Europe is a game of chance and that’s how it will be perceived for the foreseeable future.
EEGReport Magazine: Malta is currently overhauling it’s entire Gaming Legislative Framework. What should we expect?
Joseph: If law is not updated constantly, it easily becomes obsolete, thus weakening the regulatory regime. This in turn creates difficulties for the regulator to properly regulate the market, for operators to be in a position to provide the best possible service to the customers and to customers themselves who would end up less protected and more vulnerable. Furthermore, when one looks at the land-based legislation, it becomes evident that it requires a substantial overhaul. The law is fragmented into different legal instruments, some of which overlap each other and in some cases there is a conflict between provisions of the various laws. Therefore there is dire need for consistency in the law. Furthermore, it is essential that the law caters for:
– Increased technology convergence between online and land-based;
– Technology neutrality that allows industry development while ensuring that the regulator is in a position to regulate effectively, irrespective of technology advances and development of new business models;
– Non-duplication of controls in order to render processes smother and faster for operators to obtain licences and approvals while ensuring that customers are protected.
The industry is expecting to see:
– A simplified licensing system that allows operators to provide different services under the same licence. Therefore, we are expecting the removal of the distinction between Class 1, Class 2, Class 3 and Class 4 licences and instead a new system will be introduced with a B2C and a B2B licence which would make it much easier and faster for operators to increase more games and services under their respective licences.
– The legislation should allow the MGA to come up with the most efficient process in the grant of new licences and approval of new products and services.
– It should cater for platforms and game aggregators.
– Technical specifications need to be clearer giving a greater certainty to the industry and consultants. However, the structure of the legislation needs to enable the MGA to be able to react in a timely manner in order to cater for new games and business methods.
– It must be easier for online gaming software providers to provide their services to land-based operators.
– An appeals process should be introduced in order to avoid costly and lengthy court proceedings in case of disagreement with MGA decisions.
It is expected that in the coming days, the MGA will be publishing a consultation paper with all the information required by the industry to assess the new regulatory framework.
EEGReport Magazine: Do you think that a common regulatory model that can be adopted on EU level would be a good practice? Economically speaking EU countries differ a lot, thus having an all governing law in every country regarding the online gambling sector could prove to be a major setback for many less developed countries in Central and Eastern Europe. This is of course my opinion, what is your expert opinion on such a topic?
Joseph: Of course, I agree perfectly with your analysis. Compliance across the EU 28 has would be unsustainable for gaming operators.
That said, I do not believe that there is any chance of seeing a common regulatory model, similar to financial services, or at least similar to the Telecoms framework, any time soon. What we should aim for in the immediate future, is to try to find an agreement on a set of common technical standards in order to simplify compliance for operators across the EU. The Green Paper followed by the Commission’s Communication ‘Towards a comprehensive European framework for online gaming’ was a step in the right direction. However, little has been done in this direction after 2012.
The industry needs to get together and make itself heard as one voice towards the common goal of finding a EU-wide agreement on technical specifications and player protection mechanisms. This would strengthen the industry while providing the same level of protection to citizens across the EU.
Affiliate Superstars: Dan Bâra of Pariuri1x2 (EEGReport Magazine – Issue 6 – June – September 2017)
Meet Dan Bâra, a sports betting/tipster/editorial veteran who’s been active in this field for many years!!! Dan used to write for a famous newspaper, hosted a radio and TV shows as well.
Name: Dan Bâra
Living in: Bucharest
Favorite Food: Spaghetti
Must Read Book: Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson
Profession/Job title: Journalist
Hi Dan, tell us a bit about yourself, we would like to know who Dan Bâra really is, one of the main persons behind Pariuri1x2.ro. What was the key idea of developing this great betting, tipster website?
Dan: Hi and thank you for your interest in our project. There are many ways to look at a game and people have different ideas and a lot of subjectivity. But what is the common element in this? That is what I always wanted to find out and the result I think is a very good start for making a bet. I was looking to simplify the knowledge and the ideas to one simple truth, like the one a 10 year old can tell in a heart beat.
Tell us a bit about your past, and we refer to your past in the betting/tipster industry!
Dan: I started by playing sports games. Especially football, but I was no stranger to any activity involving effort. I think I have a lot of energy and I need to spend it, so cycling, running, body building and playing tennis were current activities when I was young. Then I started to watch sports on TV after the Romanian 1989‘ so called Revolution. The TV programs were more generous with sports than they were before and I was eager to watch everything. A turning point was when I heard about sports betting. That looked very simple at the first glance. I was amazed how my friends were loosing on their tickets so I wanted to help. Therefore I started an website with sports analyzes and betting tips.
What were the bumps on your road when you got started and how did you overcome them?
Dan: In 2006, after one year of struggling on my own, I had the chance to get a job at the Gazeta Sporturilor newspaper. They had an opening in sports betting so we started to walk together on a 9 years long road. First, I had the chance to write on their website and soon I even made my debut in the newspaper. Again, an year latter, I was on TV and radio. Amazing opportunities! However, it wasn’t easy. I had to overcome my stage fright, I had to change and adapt, to learn more and to become very disciplined.
Next to your website you’re also hosting a TV show called “Un Pont Pe Zi” (A Tip per Day). Let us know how the show is going and also from where came the idea for it?
Dan: I left Gazeta Sporturilor in 2015 because of the changes in the press field. I wanted to start something new and I teamed up again with my old friend and colleague Sabin Pîrvan (from my previous job) in a new project. We knew that we had the experience on our side and still a lot of new ideas to put into practice. We started with a Internet blog and then we created our own website www.pariuri1x2.ro, our Facebook page and our TV show. They were the next logical steps. Now, they are all top quality products because we do it for our people, the ones who need them and the ones who are following us. We respect them and offer our best efforts every day.
We have surfed your website (Pariuri1x2.ro) and found some pretty high quality content. Are you writing it by yourself or you have a team of people writing for you?
Dan: Our main advantage was that we had a lot of trust in us. We invented before a lot of things in the betting editorial area and we felt that our approach makes a difference. So we kept doing our thing. Soon, we started selecting people for our editorial team. Only the best of them were selected and they are working with us now. Together, we make a very solid team, the best in the country and one of the best worldwide.
How do you keep the content fresh and devoid of clutter when a lot of fluff and nonsense appear on the Internet on a daily basis?
Dan: We are journalists and we do solid documentation. We check every information and we also have our very own point of view. The team is always watching the sports events and the ideas are at the first hand.
How about your Youtube Channel, we know that a couple of days ago the channel had it’s first million views?!
Dan: The Youtube channel is the biggest of this kind for the sports betting fans in Romania. It has an impressive increase and all of it it is natural, organic increase. At the time of answering this, it has over 1,2 mil views and 6k subscribers that receive daily updates. The channel hosts parts of the TV show ( most interesting moments ) , a weekly podcast , selections from a new sports TV show where I am co-host ( Unspe Metri ) and a twice per week episode series made by a very popular person in the betting world – Doru Craciun which is also commentator for the Liga 1 matches.
We are sure that you receive daily messages from Affiliate Managers showcasing their products. You of course select them by the brands they work with; but what are your thoughts on how Affiliate Manager-Affiliate relationships should be built?
Dan: The relationships should be based on trust and stability. We only work with long term deals and we select closely the partners which we work with. As we invest tremendous work and money into our project – we expect that our partners to take this into consideration and work with us to improve performance. A little over 2 years ago we started being a very low profile website and now we are number 2 in the market. This should say a lot to the affiliate managers that work or want to work with us.
How do you see the future of the online sport betting industry? For instance, will it become a truly global phenomenon in the near future?
Dan: Well, it is already a global phenomenon and as everybody saw in the last years everything is shifting more and more into online and mobile. Biggest names in the market already have over half of the bets coming from mobile. The expansion to e-sports and other new type of bets shows that this industry constantly adapts and grows no matter what. So betting is here to stay, to increase and to be a part of any new technology or gadget that might appear.
What is your opinion in regards to licenses for online gambling/betting affiliates? How does the Romanian market look, and how do you feel about the present legislation?
Dan: Not to leave the „betting“ field, I would say that the legislation for the online gambling in Romania was a winning bet placed by the government. The licensing costs for affiliates are not the lowest ( 7000 EUR/year ) but any decent person who has a little knowledge can do an affiliate business that would recover this money in a year. It is also a guarantee of trust between operators and affiliates and it ensure a fair competitive market.
How about the situation of the Romanian sports betting market, how does it look in the present, and in which direction is it evolving?
Dan: Regarding the market – it shows a month-to-month increase since the „regulated“ era has begun and based on the size of the traditional land based market it will continue to go up. Players are more and more attracted by the online and companies invest big part of the money in advertising.
Can you name one change that you want to see in the sports betting affiliate ecosystem?
Dan: Taking into consideration that affiliates account for 15-30% of an operator’s revenue I think that affiliates should have a stronger voice in regards with what an operator plans. Being in contact with the players all day long, an affiliate has a great feedback and knowledge of what the market wants and can constitute the key to delivering a more appealing and successful product which in the end would benefit everybody.
What advise you would like to offer to the new affiliates who are looking to venture into this great industry?
Dan: The best advice is that they need to be ready to change, adapt and improve every day. It is not a complicated business and it still can generate a good income – even if started from 0, but as in every industry – success can be achieved only after many hours of hard work and study.
Who is your favorite celebrity/sports person?
Dan: I grew up with some incredible sports legends and the best of them was Diego Armando Maradona. Old school!
If you would just open your YouTube search bar, what would you search for?
Dan: Iron-man contests from Kona, Hawaii.
Back to work. Do you attend any online gambling/sports betting conferences? If so, which one is your favorite and what is your most fun experience?
Dan: Yes, I am attending to conferences and if I am not present then my partners or the marketing team are present. The most constructive ones are the London conferences and the most fun are Amsterdam and a long time ago Barcelona.
How do you rate the chances of Eastern Europe becoming potential gaming hotspot of the future? Where do you think the region must improve upon?
Dan: It is for sure that this region will influence a lot the face of the gambling in Europe. Compared with markets like UK, France, Italy, Spain or Denmark which are saturated and competition is very big – Central and Eastern Europe is like a virgin market. We could compare it with the gold rush. The only problem that this region has it’s the geopolitical stability and sometimes the fact that the markets are not really predictable. ( any day you can be put in front of a situation in which a country decides to ban online gambling )
Alright, here comes the fun part…., where would you like to travel in Eastern Europe, some part of the region maybe that you haven’t visited yet and favorite destination around the world.
Dan: Moscow, I think, from the Eastern Europe. Also, from the rest of the world I would like to see the beautiful city of Rome and travel to Africa.
Where you wouldn’t want to travel in Eastern Europe?
Dan: There isn’t such place.
What is your opinion about GAV (gamblingaffiliatevoice.com)?
Dan: I will be very short and clear about this. I think that it should go on and should evolve into an association at EU level which could stand up for affiliates and the industry. This is something missing since a long time and all affiliates must understand that even if we are all competitors on the same market – together we are stronger and only in this way we can fight for our rights.
Event Report: Affiliate Grand Slam – Mission Accomplished, Wheel Reinvented! (EEGReport Magazine – Issue 6 – June – September 2017)
The demand was there for all to see, then the organisers behind SiGMA came up with the magic formula: limit the conference to five affiliate managers and open the flood gates (with strict due diligence) for affiliates.
Affiliate Grand Slam represents the first conference in the history of affiliation where affiliates could apply for an all-inclusive VIP treat, including flights, five-star, two-night stay at the Hilton, excursions, lunches, dinners, and parties thrown in the mix.
Only five operators were allowed to host the Grand Slam, plus another five non-operators were allowed to sponsor it.
The event started off with 250 affiliates flying in to Tallinn from all corners of the world on Thursday 27th April. The SiGMA crew greeted each affiliate at the brand new, five star Hilton Park.
That same evening, each operator sat down privately with give-or-take fifty affiliates for a dinner within the hotel itself. Betting Gods, Olybet, PlayOJO, Quasar and Videoslots lavished with affiliates and nurtured new working relationships in a friendly environment. Good wine in abundance.
The night was far from over. After dinner, all guests headed down to Olympic Casino within the Hilton itself for welcome champagne, dark chocolate, cigars and a free-roll, networking poker tournament.
The organisers were hoping the night would end there and that affiliates won’t head out in the wilderness of Old Town, but, as anticipated, half their hopes went up in flames.
Still, next morning, breakfast was brimming with activity and all affiliates, bar a few casualties, seemed eager for the conference to start. Each operator gave a small presentation, followed by a series of quality workshops. Mini stalls, an exquisite buffet lunch table, coffee and Baltic treats cluttered the meet-market outside the conference hall, where handshakes and business cards were being exchanged.
Following a few hours at the Hilton spa, it was time for the big traditional dinner! Everyone headed to Olde Hansa, walking through the narrow, cobble streets of charming Old Town, for a feast back in time. Traditional cuisine made its way on all tables for everyone to share while more business cards exchanged hands.
Shortly after dinner, the closing night awaited at the Olympic Casino for a VIP, strictly by invite nighter-bender. Few guests joined the party, but the organisers would not elaborate. We can only guess how the night unfolded with 250 affiliates in this charming Baltic city.
The success of Affiliate Grand Slam was such that the industry won’t wait another year for the organisers to launch the second edition. A new city to uncover, new hosts, new affiliates. This is Affiliate Grand Slam. The wheel has been reinvented.
Log on to www.affiliategrandslam.com or www.maltaigamingsummit.com for details about the next event. If you’re interested in hosting or sponsoring the next AGS get in touch with organisers on +356 99263626, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by skype at eman.pulis.
Event Report: First International VR|AR Gambling Conference in Prague (EEGReport Magazine – Issue 6 – June – September 2017)
On April 3, 2017 in Prague, Smile-Expo held the first international specialized VR|AR Gambling Conference, dedicated to implementation of innovative technologies in gambling.
Smile-Expo is a leader in carrying out large exhibitions and conferences in the field of advanced technologies. We’ve set a goal to create a communication platform for specialists of the gambling and AR/VR technology markets, and achieved it: our event brought together leading experts from all over the world (the USA, Spain, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Israel, the Netherlands).
The conference included two subsequent streams: Business and Developer.
This section included presentations of six experts:
- founder of Advir.co Samuel Huber;
- founder of ViARsys Konrad Gill;
- CEO at Games fortuna Tal Zamstein;
- co-founder of Alea/SlotsMillion Alexander Tomic;
- owner of KWP Limited Kevin Williams.
The audience marked the two latter speeches with the following topics: “VR in eGaming” and “Mixed Realities Gaming’s Technology Jackpot”.
By the way, Kevin Williams thanked our company and marked that VR|AR Gambling Conference made invaluable contribution to the industry development.
Reports of this section were informative and topical as well. The floor was taken by:
- Artur Sychov, angel investor at I-MMERSIVE GmbH;
- Alexander Bragin, creative director at VR2GO;
- Amir Ebrahimi, team leader at Unity Technologies.
Lectures were practical and held attention of the audience from the beginning to the end. People have even taken photos of the presentation of Amir Ebrahimi from Unity Technologies on the topic “State of the VR Industry in 2017” in order not to miss useful information and apply it in practice.
We have chosen an ideally targeted line-up of speakers and guests, so VR|AR Gambling Conference was carried out in the format of a lively discussion: audience asked clear questions and received vivid answers.
There was a network demo zone from such companies as Advir, I-MMERSIVE GmbH, VR2GO, etc., which became a convenient platform for establishing relationships in the field of gambling. Visitors were able to test the latest developments of VR/AR products there as well.
The event organizer, Smile-Expo that always implements the most innovative and interesting projects, expresses gratitude to all guests and participants for their interest and engagement in the event. See you at the next conferences!
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