Posted on: September 3, 2023, 10:52h.
Last updated on: September 3, 2023, 10:52h.
Malta’s legislative move to shield its gaming operators from lawsuits originating in other European countries has sparked opposition and scrutiny from Germany, Austria, and the European Union. Now, the Dutch government is joining the chorus, increasing pressure on Malta to reverse Bill 55.
In response to lawsuits against Malta-licensed operators, the country passed Bill 55 in an attempt to provide legal immunity. However, opposition lawyers argue that the bill violates EU and Dutch laws and are urging the Dutch government to oppose it.
Leading Dutch law firms, Loonstein Lawyers and Van Diepen Van der Kroef Lawyers, have written a letter to the Minister for Legal Protection of the Netherlands, calling on the government to protect Dutch citizens and challenge Malta’s limitations on legal recourse.
The Dutch lawyers stated, “We call on the Dutch government to stand up for the interests of this group of Dutch people and to ensure, via the European Commission, that Malta does not continue with the contempt of the rule of law enshrined in the EU treaties.”
The law firms not only voice their opposition but are actively involved in litigation against Malta-licensed operators, claiming that Bill 55 violates EU and Dutch laws.
European gaming regulations lack unity, making it unclear which licenses operators need to provide services in different countries. Previous lawsuits in Germany and Austria have resulted in operators being required to compensate customers for operating without the necessary licenses.
Operators argue that their Maltese license grants them legal access to EU markets, but this defense has faltered in cases like Kindred’s failed attempt in Norway.
The core of the dispute over Bill 55’s enforcability lies in EU regulations established in 2009, including Regulation (EU) No. 1215/2012 and the updated Recast Brussels Regulation (RBR). These regulations govern civil and commercial litigation management within the EU and highlight how legal discrepancies across member states should be handled.
Malta’s interpretation of these regulations allows them to circumvent certain rules, citing a member state’s sovereignty to justify divergent legal principles. Bill 55 was specifically drafted to offer an escape route for Malta.
Malta may be feeling pressure regarding the bill’s controversy and the EU’s stance. The Malta Gaming Authority has expressed concerns about the Macolin Convention, an EU initiative addressing sports integrity and determining the legality of sports betting platforms. The Convention states that operating in a country without the necessary license is illegal.
This conflict raises questions about Bill 55, which aims to protect Malta’s gaming operators and asserts their ability to operate in EU countries without specific licenses. This ambiguity requires the European Council to determine how Malta should conform to EU standards.