Alarm raised by Lottoland’s interest in offering Malta’s national lotteries
Serious concerns have been raised among Maltese financial services operators over a possible offer by an international ‘at risk’ online gambling company to take a substantial stake in Malta’s national lottery operations for the next ten years.
Several Lotto Receivers, agents of Maltco Lotteries, who spoke to The Shift on condition of anonymity, said Lottoland was in talks with Maltco over a possible joint bid. This has raised alarm bells among industry stakeholders: The Gibraltar-based company involved in running synthetic online lotteries has been sanctioned in several jurisdictions for breaches of compliance, and is already facing a series of fines by the respective regulatory authorities.
Lotto receivers have expressed concerns about their future if the government decides to grant the concession to “a company with a very poor compliance record”.
“We are very worried about the future of our business. The government cannot be wrong and we are very surprised that Maltco is trying to join Lottoland in a new deal. It doesn’t bode well for us, ”complained the Lotto agents.
New concession of the National Lottery
Originally created and operated by the government, the National Lottery, which includes the popular Super 5 and Lotto games, was privatized in 2004. The ten-year concession was awarded twice to Maltco, which is majority owned by the company. Greek Intralot. The latter has, during past fears, difficulties in various jurisdictions and has seen its share price drop significantly.
Now, as Maltco’s second concession draws to a close, the Maltese government has reopened the concession asking for bids for a new license until 2032.
Several breaches of the rules
Lottoland operates parallel online lotteries in various jurisdictions. He has no experience in the management and operations of national lotteries and is currently on the radar of various regulators, including the UK, for anti-money laundering and other rule violations.
When asked if Maltco was in talks with Lottoland over a possible joint offer, a spokesperson for Maltco declined to answer.
In contrast, a spokesperson for Lottoland did not rule out a possible offer, insisting he has no comment at this time.
“Lottoland is not speculating on market rumors and has no comment on them,” the spokesperson said.
Sources confirmed to The Shift that Maltco – the historic concessionaire which has operated the Maltese National Lottery since 2004 – is currently trying to find a partner to reduce its share in the management of the Maltese lotteries.
The sources also confirmed that Lottoland is Maltco’s preferred partner in a possible joint bid on a new concession which is up for grabs for the next ten years.
When asked if Maltco would submit a new offer, which is due to reach the government’s privatization unit by early next month, Maltco declined to confirm interest.
Sources said that Lottoland’s possible entry into the local market would have a further negative effect on Malta’s international reputation in the financial services sector, which is currently already under siege due to the recent FATF gray listing.
Lottoland in hot water
Lottoland, which also operates a small office in Malta, is already struggling in various jurisdictions and has recently attracted a lot of negative publicity.
Just last week, the UK Gambling Commission fined Lottoland £ 760,000 and issued a formal warning for breach of social responsibility and anti-money laundering rules.
In 2017, the same company agreed to pay £ 150,000 to settle the UK’s claims that its advertising at the time was not clear enough to claim that customers were betting on an outcome rather than buying a lottery ticket.
In 2019, Lottoland was fined £ 59,000 by the Swedish gambling regulator for wrongdoing related to betting on the Swedish lottery EuroJackpot.
The company also had problems in Malta.
Recently, Maltese courts approved efforts by the local VAT department to collect nearly € 10 million in VAT owed that German tax collectors say Lottoland owes in Germany. The courts ruled that the evidence presented by Maltese officials was sufficient to demonstrate the legitimacy of the claims of the German tax authorities against the Maltese subsidiary of Lottoland.
According to Lottoland’s spokesperson, “the German authorities have now withdrawn the request”.