The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) announced that it was revoking the licenses it had issued to Phoenix International LTD, based in India, (and not to be confused with legitimate companies with the name Phoenix) that it determined was using seven gambling domains out of Italy to launder money for Italian organized crime interests.
The need for an investigation and the subsequent suspension of licenses points to the need for legitimate online casino operators and the online casino gambling public to remain vigilant. The desire to play online games is completely understandable; nevertheless, due diligence is always needed by all interested parties to keep the online gambling business safe, fair, and honest.
The MGA was quick to point out that the casinos it suspended were found to be covering for organized crime and that the operations of their services as online casinos were not compromised.
Organized Crime in Italy
The investigation began in February and by March there was sufficient evidence for the MGA to revoke the licenses. The investigation was initiated after Italian authorities arrested persons associated with an illegal organization of online casino and other gambling operators. The MGA investigation was conducted in accordance with MGA rules regarding financial transactions, transparency, and legality.
Regulation Intends to Prevent Illegality
The Maltese rules are specifically designed to prevent money laundering through online gambling operations certified and regulated under Maltese law. When the MGA receives request for certification, it cannot guarantee that the gambling site will handle only legally bet and legally earned money. The rules preventing money laundering are in place to enable the MGA to initiate investigations of possibly illegal operations and swiftly to revoke licenses if the MGA deems it clear that it is obligated to do so.
Italian news reporters revealed that they had learned of the investigation and license revocations. The MGA had sought to keep the matter quiet.
The revocations are the most recent result of an ongoing investigation by Italian authorities into the use of online gambling as an efficient way for organized crime to launder money. In addition to Phoenix International LTD, two other companies lost their MGA certification and three companies voluntarily gave up their MGA certification as a way of ending the MGA probe into their affairs. These include leaderbet.com; betent.com; potterbet; and giodni.
MGA also announced that not every online gambling operation in their investigation was deemed to be laundering money. The announcement included notice to gambling site operators, the European Union, and online gamblers that the MGA is forming a special task force the mission of which will be to maintain closer oversight on all online gambling operations certified in Malta.
Casinos Operate Honestly
Malta is quick to point out that the existence of a Random Number Generator (RNG) in all certified online casinos, guarantees the fairness of each casinos online games. The existence of an RNG does not guarantee the level of average payout to players. That is the duty of the casino and of independent auditors who check casinos at least annually to determine the average payout rates for each game offered by that casino.
The MGA certifies hundreds of online casinos and the fees charged for certification contribute 12% of the overall government revenues enjoyed by the government of Malta for its daily operations. Thus, the honesty and transparency of the online gaming industry, especially those casinos that get their certification through the MGA, is of vital importance to all of the citizens of Malta.
Certification in Malta is recognized in the European Union so any citizen of an EU country where online gambling is legal can access a casino authorized by the MGA. It is very damaging to Malta, to the EU, and to the online gaming industry generally when any outrightly illegal or shady activity goes on under the auspices of the MGA.
MGA Offers Help to Gamers
The MGA reached out to all gamers who may have had money in their accounts at any of the online casinos that had their licenses suspended. It is the overt intention of the MGA to follow through and do everything it can to get players’ money returned to them.
To that end, the MGA announced that players with outstanding accounts at a suspended casino should contact the MGA at [email protected] players also need to supply the following information:
- Full name.
- Exact address as it is registered at the casino.
- Photocopy of either the player’s identification card or their passport.
- Birth date.
- Telephone number or numbers.
- Specific definition of the type of site (casino, sports betting, or other).
- The player’s user name but not their password. It is not safe to send a password for an existing money account.
- A screenshot of the account balance or any other screenshot that proves the existence of money owed the player by the casino.
- Where the latter piece of information is not available, the player is instructed simply to estimate the amount he or she is owed by the casino.
Players are instructed in general that their due diligence is very important to regulatory agencies. Players are asked to report any activity that the players feel is suspicious in any way. The MGA reiterates that it is always trying to be sure that the casinos it certifies continue to deserve their certification.
The desire on the part of the MGA to receive a screenshot of the player’s account balance indicates that part of a player’s due diligence should be to take such a screenshot every day when they finish a gaming session. It takes seconds to do so and can save players much unnecessary inconvenience and mental anxiety.
Online Gambling is Safe
The MGA also reiterates that it certifies hundreds of online casinos and that the overwhelming majority are honest and trustworthy sites with an RNG calibrated to pay out upwards of 96% of all monies wagered. In addition to a sound RNG, the overwhelming number of MGA certified casinos operate customer service offices on a 24/7/365 basis and can be contacted by these three methods at least: chat, email, telephone.
Online casinos all recognize that a very important aspect of running an online casino is its ability to answer all questions and resolve all misunderstandings.