Enhancing Player Protection in Malta

05th May 2023

By James Lees  of Amber Gaming (Isle of Man)

At the beginning of 2023, the Malta Gaming Authority (the "MGA")announced several amendments to their Player Protection Directive (the "Directive"), which governs the obligations upon operators licensed in Malta to protect their players from gambling related harms. This followed a closed industry consultation in October 2022, with the mandate to strengthen and clarify the player protection framework.

The developments to the framework will support the MGA’s initiatives moving forward to facilitate enhanced protection of players by the industry. With the issue of safer gambling continuing to gather pace, and the recent approval by European countries to develop a European standard on markers of harm, these developments reemphasise the MGA’s desire to create a safe environment to gamble responsibly.

Whilst the amendments to the Directive do not become enforceable until 12th January 2024, it is essential that operators take proactive steps to understanding the new requirements, allowing time for policies and procedures to be amended and embedded, as well as ensuring staff receive training on the latest requirements.

Markers of Harm

A key development of the Directive is the introduction of mandatory Markers of Harm. Operators will be obliged to monitor such markers to assist in determining if a player is being negatively impacted by their gambling activity. In addition to existing risk factors for responsible gambling such as age and product type played, here are five Markers of Harm detailed within the Directive which must be monitored as a minimum requirement. These include:

  • Transactions: The amount and frequency of deposits and, or wagers
  • Payments: The use of multiple payment methods
  • Reversals: The reversal of withdrawals pending
  • Communication: Communication-based indicators such as increased player complaints and bonuses; and
  • Responsible Gambling Tools: Use of responsible gaming tools

These Markers of Harm must be embedded into the monitoring frameworks established by operators, and systems employed should be capable of creating automatic flags to allow for a quick response to player activity. Whilst these markers create additional guidance on the types of activity that should arouse suspicions of concern, operators must also define specific parameters which would prompt a marker to be met, for example, the number of deposits within a 24-hour period, the size of a single deposit, or cumulative deposit values.

Operators must accurately reflect this within their processes and ensure that they have sufficient system capabilities to achieve this.

Player Exclusions

The introduction of responsible gambling tools has been pivotal in strengthening the protection of players and are now commonplace throughout the industry to ensure players maintain control of their own spending.

There are a multitude of tools which are available to players, from reality checks to website exclusions, whereby a player may exclude themselves indefinitely, or for anywhere between six months and a five-year period.

Operators also have the ability to exclude players from their websites, should they deem it necessary to do so. The Directive now details the steps to be taken in the event of an operator-led exclusion, stating that the operator must provide information regarding organisations which aid those with problem gambling issues. These may include for example, The Responsible Gaming Foundation in Malta or GamCare.

An operator-led exclusion can be considered as one of the stronger forms of action following a marker of harm being identified and indicates that the operator identifies that gambling activity is having a particularly negative impact. Guiding players towards charities and services which can properly support them should be of paramount importance and can prevent a player from spiralling out of control.


Exclusions, whether operator, or player-led, may be implemented for either a definitive or indefinite period, preventing the player from accessing the website in order to gamble.

Players, under the Directive, do however have capacity to request that their period of exclusion is reduced or removed.

Where a player has made a request to remove their exclusion prior to the expiry date, they must provide an explanation to the operator, highlighting the reasons why they believe that the exclusion period should be amended.

Although players may seek to amend their exclusion period, there is no obligation for the operator to agree. A decision to amend a players’ exclusion period following a formal request must be considered in line with the reasons made and internal company policy. The player must be informed of the operators’ decision in writing no later than 7 days from the date on which the request was made.

If the operator agrees to amend the exclusion period and if the player is under a definite period of self-exclusion, then a decrease or reversal shall become effective after a 24 hour period.

Where the player is under an indefinite period of self-exclusion, then the decrease or reversal shall be effective after 7 days.

Following acceptance of the request, players must be reminded of the responsible gaming tools which are available to them.

Following any period of exclusion, it is prudent that operators consider the continued susceptibility of players to gambling related harm and adapt this within their monitoring frameworks and markers of harm, particularly in the immediate period following a player’s return.


Though players must be prevented from being able to use an operator’s services during an exclusion period, they must not be prohibited from withdrawing any remaining funds left in their account. Operators must ensure that the process for doing so is clearly stated within the website’s terms and conditions.

Player Activity and Support


It has always been important that operators not only implement a suite of policies and procedures in line with regulatory requirements, but the documents should be reflective of the true processes which take place on a day-to-day basis. As a further consequence of the changes in the Directive, operators are now mandated to retain evidence that the relevant internal policies and procedures were followed and present such evidence to the MGA upon request. These developments aim to ensure that operators policies and procedures are truly tailored to their procedures and not simply templated documents.

Additionally, operators must also retain evidence of any responsible gambling reviews conducted on players. This shall be demonstrated through effective record keeping and note taking within the back-office systems, ensuring that all actions/interactions taken are recorded with sufficient detail.

Player support teams play an important role within each organisation as they’re the player’s first port of call. It is important that such staff members have detailed knowledge of their policies and procedures, undertake regular training on key areas, including responsible gambling and anti-money laundering, to ensure that any markers of harm are properly identified and dealt with accordingly whilst maintaining proper records.

The Directive now stipulates that operators must ensure that player support teams are “properly and routinely trained” on the operators policies and procedures and ensure maintenance of accurate training records of training undertaken, which the MGA may request to see.

The importance of effective note taking and record keeping should not be understated. Not only do proper records demonstrate to the MGA that you are acting appropriately, comprehensive records provide invaluable information that can be relied upon for more informed decision making on the best course of action.


Gambling should be an entertaining experience for all players and operators must ensure that gambling on their websites does not cause a negative impact. The use of reality checks provides players with the ability to remind themselves of the length of time they have been playing and determine whether they would like to continue to play or not.

The Directive clarifies how reality checks should function and the information they must provide to players. Players must be offered the ability to set their own alerts at certain intervals, this alert will usually be in a form of a pop-up.

Once a reality check appears, they must:

  • Suspend play
  • Remind players to stay in control of their gambling,
  • State the amount of time spent playing, the amount of money wagered and the wins & losses during the gaming session.

Once a reality check alert appears, it shall remain on the screen until the player acknowledges the message.

The reality check function is a valuable tool for players to prevent them from getting lost in their gambling for hours upon end. Operators should consider how reality checks fit into their framework for detecting Markers of Harm, given that they tend to operate more as a reminder, and can be considered as a softer tool.

Further Amendments to the Directive

Whilst the headline news from the amendments made to the Directive focus on the Markers of Harm, smaller clarifications have also been introduced to further enhance the protection of players.


Operators must ensure that any reference to imagery depicting illicit substances does not feature on any website imagery or games provided via their website. This further extends the marketing and advertising restrictions imposed by the Commercial Communications Regulations. Whilst the MGA does not go as far as to limit marketing and the use of imagery like other tier one regulators, such as the Gambling Commission of Great Britain, it nonetheless indicates the MGA’s desire to create an environment of maximum player protection.


The Directive also clarifies that any gaming services which are provided via application software must display the same information required on a desktop site, being:

  • A sign which indicates that underage gaming is not permissible.
  • A ‘responsible gaming’ message which provides information explaining that gaming can be harmful if it is not controlled and information about the player support measures on the website.
  • Any identifier tool, which may include any dynamic seal or kite mark that the MGA may require to be incorporated in the homepage of all websites operated by the B2C licensee or which are operated for and on their behalf.
  • Players should be informed if a game they’re playing is regulated by the MGA or not, this should be clearly and readily visible on the homepage of each website.
  • Following the registration process and before the player’s first deposit, provide information on the responsible gaming tools and measures available to the player and clearly indicate how to access them.



The latest amendments are significant developments to the player protection framework in Malta, particularly through the introduction of specific Markers of Harm, increasing the operators’ proactiveness when attempting to combat reducing the impact of uncontrolled gambling.

With the amendments enforceable from the 12th of January 2024, we have summarised below a note on key considerations for operators to consider as soon as possible:

  • It is essential that operators review their current policies, procedures and risk frameworks, to adapt and enhance the controls in place to protect players.
  • Any changes must take into account the Markers of Harm, use of responsible gambling tools and carefully consider their record keeping practices.
  • Player risk assessments must be updated to ensure the Markers of Harm are included where necessary to ensure that players are suitably protected.
  • Any changes to policies and procures must also be technically integrated to ensure systems align with those updated practices.
  • Ensure sufficient and adequate training is provided to staff which not only covers key areas such as AML/CFT and responsible gambling, but also covers internal policies and procedures

Assurance measures should be established to assess the effectiveness and implementation of any updates introduced following these changes to the Player Protection Directive.

At Amber Gaming, we believe it is important to embrace the standards of compliance beyond compare and to do this it is critical to keep ahead of the game by keeping abreast of regulatory updates, considering industry changes and how these may impact upon your existing operations to date.

If you would like to speak to us about the amendments or explore how we can embed these into your processes, please feel free to get in touch with us via the form on our Contacts page.