On the European gambling market, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has been a significant player throughout the 2000s. Many of Europe's largest online casino companies are headquartered in Malta and offer their services under the MGA licence across various market areas.

MGA licence plays a crucial role in the operation of online casinos: it ensures the security and legality of the casino's operations. In the early 2000s, there were many illegal online casinos operating without a licence, but today the market is fortunately well-regulated.

In recent years, Malta's dominant licence has faced challengers, as many gambling companies have opted for licences in countries like Estonia instead of the MGA licence. Additionally, the classic Curacao licence has improved its reputation. A new gambling licence is also coming to Finland.

Alongside these, various countries have introduced their own regulatory authorities and licensing systems. Below, you can read about the differences between the MGA licence and other popular licensing options.

MGA gambling licence (Malta Gaming Authority)

Let's start with the most familiar: the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). It is one of the world's most respected and well-known issuers of gaming licences. The authority has been in operation since 2001 and oversees all gambling activities in Malta, including both online casinos and traditional casinos.

With an MGA licence, casino operators can offer their games to other countries. For this reason, many Nordic casino operators, for example, utilize the Maltese licence in their operations.

The MGA sets high standards for obtaining a licence. Applicants must undergo a thorough background check to ensure that their business operations are fair and transparent. This also includes a review of the companies' financial status.

Operators holding an MGA licence are under continuous supervision. The MGA closely monitors financial transactions and enforces anti-money laundering measures. Additionally, the MGA is known for its requirements for responsible gaming.

You can find these options from casino comparison websites like Kaikkinettikasinot.fi for example.

Among players, the MGA licence is highly regarded. Furthermore, due to Malta's EU membership, winnings from MGA-licensed casinos are tax-free in most EU countries.

Swedish gambling licence (Spelinspektionen)

Sweden's own gambling authority, Spelinspektionen, regulates the country's gambling market and has been issuing licences since 2019 following a reform of Swedish gambling legislation.

Like the MGA, Spelinspektionen is very strict in its oversight. However, the Spelinspektionen licence is even more tightly regulated, especially regarding advertising and bonuses. Operators are largely prohibited from offering bonuses that encourage gambling.

Both of these licences set high standards for responsible gaming, but Sweden takes it a step further with its Spelpaus system. This system allows players to automatically self-exclude from all Swedish-licenced casinos.

Another difference between the MGA licence and the Swedish licence is the cost. The Swedish gambling licence is more expensive for operators to maintain due to very high taxes and licensing fees. However, it should be noted that the MGA licence can also come with a significant price tag.

Estonian gambling licence (Maksu- ja Tolliamet)

The Estonian licensing system is managed by the Estonian Tax and Customs Board (Maksu- ja Tolliamet). The Estonian licensing system has been in operation since 2010 and covers both online casinos and traditional casinos in Estonia.

The MGA licence and the Estonian licence are quite similar in many respects. Sometimes, the Estonian licence is referred to as the "little brother" of the Maltese licence. Both licences involve strict oversight of casino operators, with a particular focus on responsible gaming.

In Estonia, as in Malta, a central theme is the prevention of money laundering and the monitoring of financial transactions. In this regard, Estonia and Malta are very much aligned.

Regarding bonuses, promotions, and advertising, Estonia is very much on par with the MGA licence. There are practically no restrictions on how many bonuses operators can offer their players.

In recent years, Estonia has gained recognition alongside the MGA licence, and nowadays, many online casinos aimed at Nordic players choose the Estonian option.

Curacao gambling licence (Curacao eGaming)

Curacao is one of the oldest and most well-known issuers of casino gaming licences, especially in the offshore market. The Curacao licensing system was established in 1996 and offers a cost-effective option for casino operators.

Regulation under the Curacao licence is significantly lighter compared to the Maltese licence. The focus is more on facilitating business operations rather than complicating them. In particular, the requirements for responsible gaming are not as stringent under the Curacao licence as they are with the MGA licence.

For operators, the Curacao licence is considerably cheaper to obtain and maintain compared to the MGA licence. Additionally, acquiring a Curacao licence can be accomplished more quickly. For these reasons, many new operators choose to start with a Curacao licence.

While the Curacao licence is globally recognized, its reputation and reliability are significantly weaker in the eyes of players within the EU compared to the MGA licence. Consequently, many players opt to avoid Curacao-licenced casinos altogether.

In recent years, however, the Curacao gaming authority has been attempting to improve its image through various changes, with more improvements reportedly on the way.

German gambling licence (Glücksspielbehörde)

In Germany, casino gaming was long considered a "wild west" until the German gambling licensing system was reformed in 2021. The new regulatory framework covers all forms of gambling, including online casinos and sports betting. Ensuring player safety is at the core of the German system.

Both the German and Maltese licences are strictly regulated, but the German licence is even stricter in some respects. Responsible gaming and advertising, in particular, are under close scrutiny with the German licence.

Like the Swedish licence, the German licence is very expensive for gambling operators to maintain due to high taxes and licensing fees. The MGA licence, in contrast, appears as a more affordable option.

Germany has also taken cues from Sweden regarding advertising and bonuses. Casino operators are heavily restricted in offering bonuses. On the other hand, MGA-licenced casinos can offer bonuses and promotions as much as they like.

A significant difference between the MGA licence and the German licence is that the Maltese licence provides operators with access to international markets. The German licence, like the Swedish one, focuses solely on the domestic gambling market.

Kahnawake gambling licence (Kahnawake Gaming Commission)

The Kahnawake Gaming Commission has been issuing gambling licences since 1996. This licence is particularly popular in the North American market, but in recent years, several European operators have also chosen the Kahnawake option.

In terms of security and regulatory standards, the Kahnawake licence is similar to the Curacao licence. The level of oversight is not as stringent as it is under the MGA licence. This is reflected in the fact that the Kahnawake licence is significantly cheaper for operators to obtain and has lower maintenance fees.

The Kahnawake licence does not impose restrictions on casino operators regarding advertising or the distribution of bonuses. While responsible gaming is encouraged, casinos are not mandated to implement specific measures to enforce it.

The Kahnawake licence is well-known globally, but its reputation is not on the same level as the MGA licence.

Summary – Differences between licences

There are significant differences between casino licences, so it is not inconsequential under which gambling authority an online casino operates.

In the licensing market, the MGA licence has a good reputation and performs excellently in comparison to other licences.

In terms of regulation, security, and reputation, the closest alternative to the MGA licence is the one offered by the Estonian gambling authority.

The Curacao and Kahnawake licences, on the other hand, fall into the same category. The Swedish and German licences represent stricter regulation, limited to their respective market areas.

Disclaimer: Play responsibly. Players must be over 18. For help visit https://www.gamcare.org.uk/.

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