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Malta Gambling Authority accused of poor sealing processes

MGA regulator in trouble for poor supervision

Former MGA employee goes after regulatorOne of the biggest gambling regulators in the world is in hot water after a former employee has claimed professional incompetence.

A Bulgarian national, Valery Atanasov, was dismissed from his role at the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) in 2015 and has recently come out to say the regulator did not follow its own security guidelines. He claims the gambling regulator failed to properly monitor the computer servers which gambling websites use.

Atanasov worked at the MGA, which was then known as the Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA), where he was responsible for “sealing” hardware. This hardware is used by MGA licensed online gambling sites which provide casino games via the local servers.

To be licensed by the MGA, the gambling sites need to comply with anti-money laundering policies. Once these have been checked, employees, including Atanasov, attach special stickers onto computer servers. These stickers contain ID numbers which link with the gambling operators’ equipment registered with the MGA. This allows the MGA to determine what is used for gambling transactions and allows the regulator to monitor any suspicious money laundering or other criminal behaviour.

Atanasov gave media outlet, Reuters, email correspondence between three gambling companies and MGA employees which revealed there had been sealing breaches.

One email from 2012 between Betsson gambling operator representative, Robert Zammit and MGA officials revealed its gambling servers based in the Malta offices had not been sealed for years.

Betsson used to operate out of Sweden but relocated to Malta in 2008 and Zammit even mentioned some computers had not been sealed since.

In another email exchange from 2013, director of Mr Green online gambling casino and sportsbook, Angelo Dalli, revealed the company also had unsealed equipment.

Atanasov said if a gambling company wants to be licensed by the MGA and operate from the company, by law it needs to submit an accurate picture of its computer network. MGA employees then have to double check the hardware in association to the diagram submitted and seals are then placed. If seals are not placed, then the reason behind it needs to be reported to the regulator.

Atanasov claimed he had refused to seal equipment due to inaccurate diagrams, including for the Kindred Group – formerly known as Unibet. His refusal reportedly cost him his job as operators filed multiple complaints about him and he was dismissed for insubordination.

A document which assisted the investigation into his employment revealed he was only meant to seal computer servers and not decide whether they matched the diagram. It also added that because of this a lack of seal, gambling operators were unable to operate legally in terms of their MGA license.

Atanasov countered the document and slammed the MGA for providing poor supervisions which in turn facilitates avenues for money laundering, fraud, and other criminal activities.

Chairman of the MGA, Joseph Cuschieri, commented on Atanasov’s allegations revealing the sealing process was not the only system the gambling authority employed to deter money laundering and other criminal activities. He said more comprehensive procedures were applied.

Malta is one of the biggest gambling destinations for online gambling companies to base their headquarters. The stunning island provides lower tax rates and licensing fees when compared to other gambling jurisdictions in Europe while claiming a strong reputation for ensuring security.

At the time of writing, the MGA has signed off on around 500 gambling licenses which operate all around the world.

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