Malta’s Bill 55 Faces Growing Opposition in Europe
In a bid to shield its gaming operators from litigation originating in other European countries, Malta passed Bill 55, sparking negative responses from Germany and Austria, and raising questions about its legitimacy within the European Union (EU). Now, the Dutch government is joining the chorus of opposition, intensifying pressure on Malta to reconsider this contentious legislation.
Malta’s Attempt to Create a Legal Shield
Faced with numerous lawsuits targeting operators licensed in Malta, the country embarked on an ambitious legislative endeavor: creating a legal firewall. Under Bill 55, if a foreign government attempted to sue a Malta-licensed operator in a Maltese courtroom, the judge would have the authority to dismiss the case before it proceeded.
This legislative move was approved by Malta’s parliament in June, but it has thrust the nation into a global spotlight, prompting a fierce debate over its legality. Lawyers from various European countries argue that Bill 55 violates EU laws, with a coalition of legal experts in the Netherlands now seeking to challenge the bill’s validity.
The Dutch Resistance
Legal experts assert that Malta lacks a solid legal foundation to advance Bill 55. They are calling upon the Dutch government to take an official stance against the bill and compel Malta to reconsider its position.
Leading the charge are two prominent Dutch law firms, Loonstein Lawyers and Van Diepen Van der Kroef Lawyers, who penned a letter to Franc Weerwind, the Minister for Legal Protection of the Netherlands, in an effort to garner political support.
In their plea, Dutch lawyers stated, “We call on the Dutch government to stand up for the interests of this group of Dutch people and to ensure, via the European Commission, that Malta does not continue with the contempt of the rule of law enshrined in the EU treaties.”
These law firms aren’t merely voicing opposition to Bill 55; they are actively involved in litigation against Malta-licensed operators, contending that the bill not only violates EU laws but Dutch laws as well.
Navigating Legal Ambiguities
One of the core issues contributing to the debate surrounding the enforceability of Bill 55 is a set of laws that began to take shape in 2009. This eventually culminated in the creation and adoption of new regulations, Regulation (EU) No. 1215/2012, along with the updated Recast Brussels Regulation (RBR).
These regulations were designed to provide guidance on how civil and commercial litigation and enforcement would be handled within the EU. Several articles of RBR address how legal matters and disputes between EU member countries should be resolved.
Malta contends that these regulations afford it certain exemptions, essentially allowing it to bypass the rules in specific instances. The language in these regulations repeatedly emphasizes the member state’s authority when litigation does not align with that state’s legal principles. Bill 55 was crafted to secure Malta’s legal escape route.
Controversy and EU Pressure
The EU and the surrounding controversy are exerting pressure on Malta. The Malta Gaming Authority recently announced that it was reconsidering its opposition to the Macolin Convention, an EU initiative focused on sports integrity. This convention defines the legality of sports betting platforms, stipulating that any online sportsbook offering services in a country where it lacks a license operates illegally.
This stance appears to be at odds with Bill 55, which aims to protect Malta’s gaming operators by asserting their right to operate in EU countries, even without a local license. This ambiguity is only deepening the confusion surrounding the bill, and the European Council must determine whether Malta will align itself with the broader European regulatory framework.
What is Malta’s Bill 55, and why is it causing controversy in Europe?
Malta’s Bill 55 is a legislative attempt to shield its gaming operators from litigation originating in other European countries. It has sparked controversy because it is seen as potentially violating EU laws, leading to opposition from several EU member states, including Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands.
Why are Dutch law firms opposing Bill 55?
Dutch law firms, such as Loonstein Lawyers and Van Diepen Van der Kroef Lawyers, are actively opposing Bill 55 because they believe it not only contravenes EU laws but also Dutch laws. They are calling on the Dutch government to take a stand against the bill and seek its reversal.
What is the legal basis for Malta’s Bill 55?
Malta’s Bill 55 relies on a set of laws that began emerging in 2009, leading to the creation of Regulation (EU) No. 1215/2012 and the Recast Brussels Regulation (RBR). These regulations offer guidance on how civil and commercial litigation within the EU should be managed, and Malta argues that they allow for certain exemptions.
How is the Macolin Convention related to the controversy surrounding Bill 55?
The Macolin Convention, an EU initiative focused on sports integrity, defines the legality of sports betting platforms. It states that online sportsbooks offering services in a country where they lack a license are operating illegally. This stance contradicts Bill 55, which aims to protect Malta’s gaming operators in EU countries without local licenses.
What is the future of Bill 55 and its implications for Malta and the EU?
The future of Bill 55 remains uncertain, as it faces strong opposition from multiple EU member states. Its fate will depend on legal challenges, political pressure, and decisions by the European Council. The bill’s outcome will have implications not only for Malta but also for the broader European regulatory landscape.
September 22, 2023
September 22, 2023
September 22, 2023