Gaming | What are the recent changes to the Player Protection Directive?
6 min read
Authors: Jackie Mallia & James Bartolo
On 12th January 2023 the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) published amendments to the Player Protection Directive (Directive 2 of 2018) (the “Directive”), to strengthen operators’ obligations with respect their responsible gaming policies and introduces problem gambling indicators which licensees must consider when detecting and providing effective measures. Below is a highlight of the main changes implemented to the Directive.
Following player registration and before the first wager, operators are now required to provide all responsible gaming information to the player, including the relevant tools and measures available. Such information may be conveyed through a pop-up message, or any other way that adequately captures the player’s attention. Together with such information, licensees must also indicate where these tools and measures may be accessed on the webpage.
Licensees who provide gaming services and/or critical supplies to mobile sites and to mobile device applications must also provide the abovementioned information in addition to making the rules of the game readily available to players. For these operators, game rules may be categorized into further sub-sections within the same webpage or application interface due to the limited space, while allowing full accessibility and understandability.
Upon receiving a request from a player to self-exclude, B2C licensees operating multiple brands which require separate player registrations shall now be required to ask the player whether a self-exclusion request is to be applied to all brands. Notwithstanding, if the licensee operates multiple brands that do not require separate player registrations, a self-exclusion request is to be applied to all brands. Prior to these amendments, Article 11(4)(b) of the Directive outlined how B2C licensees had to implement exclusions on players across all brands, when the licensee concerned had sufficient reasons to establish that the player may have problem gambling issues. By virtue of the revised Directive, this requirement prevails, irrespective of whether the brands require separate player registration. B2C operators that implement exclusions on a player following sufficient reasons indicating problem gambling, must also provide information to the player regarding organizations that aid persons with problem gambling issues. Should players try to bypass an exclusion imposed by the licensee by changing previously provided details, this will be considered in the event of any investigation
Players requesting the revocation of a self-exclusion, are now be required to provide an explanation outlining the circumstances leading to such a request. Upon reviewing such explanation, the B2C licensee may either accept or reject such a request, at its discretion, and the player shall be informed of the decision in writing within seven (7) days from date of request. Even if a self-exclusion revocation request is accepted by the operator, the latter must remind the player of the responsible gaming tools and measures available. Timeframes allowed for B2C licensees to affect a revocation or reduction of a definite or indefinite self-exclusion shall remain previously established, that is, within twenty-four (24) hours for revocation or reduction of a definite self-exclusion, and within seven (7) days for revocation or reduction of an indefinite self-exclusion. It is paramount however, that these timeframes are to be triggered from the day on which the licensee accept such a request, and not from when the request has been received.
Article 13 of the Directive has also been amended, affecting the duration of retention of records relating to a player self-exclusions. While licensees are still required to retain such records throughout the duration of the self-exclusion agreement, operators may now keep such records for as long as necessary following expiry or revocation of self-exclusion. Such time-frame is to be determined by the operator on a case-by-case basis, enabling them to maintain a complete responsible gaming profile on the player. It would be interesting to note that unless specifically justified by the operator, the retention of records in this respect could run counter to data protection law; thus, the operator is advised to document its reasons for retention of this data despite the fact that the new Directive appears to make allowances in this respect.
The Directive has also included provisions to safeguard the ability of players to withdraw funds during a period of exclusion – whether such exclusion has been requested by the player or enforced by the operator. During an exclusion period, players shall still be able to withdraw their funds and such procedure is to be clearly outlined in the terms and conditions of the licensee, together with any instances where licensees have procedures in place to automatically remit funds to players during an exclusion period, without the need of such players to request for withdrawal.
Any alternative version of games which may be offered by the licensee to players, but which exclude a stake and/or prize, must ensure that such games are being offered with the same technical conditions, and must be otherwise identical to the corresponding game.
Licensees who offer in-game digital currency must always establish a corresponding real monetary value. Such real monetary value must be clear, at least on every deposit carried out by the player, and through every game history report and/or statistic provided to the player.
In addition to wagering or deposit limits requested to be set by players, B2C licensees shall also be allowed to impose limits on a player, if this is in line with its declared policies and procedures.
In relation to player activity and support, B2C licensees are to document their compliance with the relevant policies and procedures, and such information shall be readily available to the Authority upon request. Such evidence shall also include records of any internal investigation relating to responsible gaming, the decisions taken thereafter, as well as any player interactions.
Vulnerable persons and minors must be protected at all times, and B2C licensees must not depict or make reference to illicit substances in any imagery featured in games or in any part of the website. ‘Illicit substances’ would be those identified as illicit or illegal under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance (Cap. 101 of the Laws of Malta) and/or the Medical and Kindred Professions Ordinance (Cap. 31 of the Laws of Malta) from time to time.
In view of licensees’ ongoing player support function and of the possibility of referring disputes to registered ADR entities, operators are no longer required to offer the opportunity to players to refer their complaints to the Malta Gaming Authority.