Malta’s controversial Bill 55 has come under fire once again as a collection of Dutch lawyers has relayed stakeholders concerns to the country’s Minister for Legal Protections, Franc Weerwind.
Echoing previous worry expressed in Austria and Germany, a number of Loonstein Advocaten lawyers are appealing for the government to “stand up for the interests of Dutch citizens” and to ensure that Malta “respects the rule of law as laid down in EU treaties”.
Last month, German gambling regulator, Gemeinsamen Glücksspielbehörde der Länder, cast further doubt over the legitimacy of Bill 55 by stating that it does not believe it complies with European law.
This is a viewpoint that has subsequently gained the backing of Loonstein, which stated that “a law like Gaming Bill  has no precedent in the EU”.
Passed by lawmakers of the Mediterranean archipelago in June, the Bill aims to permit Maltese courts to refuse the recognition and enforcement across foreign judgements related to licensees.
Loonstein Advocaten lawyers argue that this undermines Dutch jurisprudence, poses a danger to citizens and goes against EU law and the foundations on which the EU was founded.
“…the Maltese government has changed the Maltese gambling law very quickly and in a non-transparent way, without taking into account other EU member states and the rights of their respective residents. This goes against European laws and treaties,” the letter to Weerwind reads.
Adding: “This law would therefore set a dangerous precedent. Not only for proceedings against Maltese gambling companies, but also for the recognition and enforcement of judgments within Malta and the EU in general. Such a precedent would seriously undermine European treaties.”
Specifically, Bill 55 looks to prevent enforcement action against MGA licensed operators under two sets of circumstances. Firstly, if an action conflicts with or undermines the provision of gaming services in Malta it cannot be undertaken.
Additionally, enforcement measures could not be taken if the action made by the operator relates to an authorised activity lawful under the Gambling Act.
This effectively means that Maltese courts could refuse recognition and enforcement actions in Malta by foreign betting and gaming regulators.
“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 laid down in the EU treaties,” the communication concludes.
“We also appeal to the government to ensure that companies that do not respect Dutch judgments lose their permits and/or are no longer eligible for a permit.”
In response to recent criticism, the Malta Gaming Authority stated a belief that Bill 55 is “in full conformity with EU law and is based on the freedoms afforded to an entity established within the internal market”.
Malta’s government and the MGA believe that its provisions are “accurate and transparent”, and remain compliant with EU laws on the freedom to provide business services as one of the central principles of the European constitution.
These are if overseas regulatory enforcement “conflicts with or undermines the provision of gaming services in Malta” or if the company’s own actions were compliant with Maltese law.