Ben joined football league and is assembling his own fantasy football team. It was always his dream to manage football stars. But Ben knows that he has to select them carefully from a set pool of real players as the points attributed to each of his players will reflect the players’ performance in actual sporting games. His budget is limited and he needs to make sure that the players selected will yield him the highest amount of points possible. This will subsequently affect the outcome of Ben’s game. The outcome of the game is determined predominantly by Ben’s skill and knowledge on how players perform in real life rather than by chance.
Does it sound like a fantasy? This is actually what Fantasy Sports is all about; a virtual dream of managing a team of professional athletes becomes a realisation of sports fans’ ultimate dream. The participants compete for prizes of a monetary value based on a scoring system that takes into account the accumulated statistics of real life professional athletes chosen as part of a fantasy team.
What started as a competitive game played amongst friends in the 20th century has matured into a billion dollar industry. Once it had migrated to the online market it grew exponentially into Fantasy Sports phenomena attracting millions of sports fans and generating billions of dollars revenue worldwide.
Malta is regarded as one of the most reputable and competitive jurisdictions when it comes to remote gaming on a global level. The label was achieved through being amongst the first jurisidictions to regulate it and a consequent track record of providing transparent, fair and secure services to its gaming clients over the years. Malta is a modern IT hub that promotes various IT related products and a rather efficient process of gaming licensing.
A project to regulate games of skills, including Fantasy Sports has been on the agenda of Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) for some time. The discussion revolved around the subject of whether the Fantasy Games were in fact games predominantly dependant on skill or chance. After the process of consultation MGA concluded that Fantasy Games are in fact the games of skill and should be thus regulated accordingly. MGA took a position that Fantasy Sports should be regulated in an appropriate and proportionate way that addresses the level of risk presented to the consumer and thus rights of the consumers should be properly safeguarded. This change in perception when it comes to the licensing of the games of skills has been seen registered worldwide.
In August 2016, Fantasy Sports (Exemption) Regulations, 2016, Laws of Malta (the ‘Exemption Regulation’) came into force exempting service providers of Fantasy Sports from obtaining licences from the MGA. This Exemption Regulation is a temporary arrangement until the new Skill Games Regulations, which are currently passing through the notification procedures of the EU Technical Regulations Information System (TRIS) Process, come into force. In terms of the Exemption Regulation, the Service Provider, for the time being, may voluntary decide whether or not to notify MGA on the offering of Fantasy Sports games. MGA envisages to closely monitor these games and check whether there are any potential risks to the consumer.
Regulating Fantasy Sports as games of skill will create the balance in protect public interest for consumers, without creating unreasonable barriers to companies offering such games. In this way, the operators will be able to nurture a viable business and provide customers with innovative and more attractive products that allow them to enjoy their passion in a safe and protected environment.