The role for CEO of the MGA is still up for grabs - we look at potential candidates who we feel have what it takes to fill such a crucial role at such crucial time
The gaming industry in Malta contributes significantly to the economy. The industry is the third largest sector, contributing €1.56bn to the country’s GDP in 2019, despite cancelling 14 licences that same year.
The role for CEO at the Malta Gaming Authority is still available after Heathcliff Farrugia announced that he will not renew his contract late last year. Farrugia joined the MGA as COO in 2014 and was a pivotal figure in the transformation process which the Authority underwent. In 2016, he was then appointed as the Chief Regulatory Officer, and later CEO in 2018.
In a bid to fill this role, the MGA issued a public call for the first time ever on December 17th, enhancing the transparency and credibility of the application process.
Is the authority still as relevant today as it was fifteen years ago when hardly any European country had its own licensing regime? Will companies remain in Malta, retaining thousands of jobs on the island? Will increased banking pressures, AML and KYC issues stifle growth?
A number of measures have recently been introduced, aimed at avoiding grey-listing by Moneyval. The next CEO will need to find the right balance and lead the way with the highest standards in mind, at the same time retaining Malta's attractiveness, not only for existing companies to stay and grow further, but for new companies to consider relocating or colocating in Malta as well.
We, at SiGMA have discussed this issue internally, given that one of our European show is held there, and shortlisted a number of candidates whom we feel has what it takes to steer the Authority in such turbulent times.
1. Trevor De Giorgio
The Managing Director at Green tube, who is also the Head of International Legal Compliance with Greentube Austria, has been in the industry for years. He has taken on a number of important roles throughout his career, such as working with the Lotteries and Gaming Authority’s Legal department as well as acting as the Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Simon Busuttil at the European Parliament. Dr. De Giorgio focuses on international regulatory and public affairs while also carrying out research on different markets and jurisdictions within the online gaming sector. He has borne witness to Malta’s transformation into an international iGaming Hub and has also helped the MGA set up an EU affairs office. He had thrived at the MGA and worked well under its mentors at the time – CEO Reuben Portanier and Head of Legal and Chief of Legal and Regulatory Affairs – Joe Borg. It’s safe to say that with Dr. De Giorgio’s expertise and previous experience with the MGA, the Managing Director would be a potentially great fit for the regulatory body.
2. Joe Borg
Dr. Joseph Borg heads the Gaming and Gambling Advisory and the Blockchain Advisory of WH Partners where he is also a partner. He is known to be a very eloquent individual who is capable of communicating his messages clearly and concisely.
Dr. Borg is knowledgeable in various sectors including Esports, corporate, IT, Telecoms and Intellectual Property Law while also working as a lecturer at the University of Malta in Gaming Law. He also had previous experience with the Lotteries Gaming Authority in Malta acting as the Chief Regulatory Officer. Taking all this into consideration, together with Dr. Borg ranking as a “Leading Individual” by Legal 500 EMEA 2002 guide in the FinTech practice area, he is an ideal candidate for a role that requires an educated and well-spoken individual.
3. Mario Galea
Mr. Galea was at the heart of the LGA for a very long time, serving between 2004 and 2008, and was responsible for the growth of the iGaming industry in Malta. He was also awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement due to his excellent performance and contribution to New Jersey’s internet gaming initiative. The former chief executive of the LGA introduced a number of remote gaming measures and was the driving force behind Malta becoming one of the largest online gaming jurisdictions in the world. Mr. Galea is currently on the Board of the Council of Experts Advisors to the Gambling and Lottery Commission in Ukraine with SiGMA’s own Denis Dzyubenko while also acting as chief executive of his own gaming consultancy firm – Random Consulting. Although Mr. Galea has moved into the consultancy scene there is no reason why he could take on such an important role and continue to help Malta’s gaming industry grow just like he previously did.
4. Christopher Formosa
Christopher Formosa is currently acting as the Chief Operations Officer (COO) at the MGA. He had started his career as an Executive Secretary within the local council scene and later moved into the Head of Operations position with the CHOGM Malta 2015 Taskforce. Here he was directly involved in different activities including the planning and execution phases of any plans. In his role at the MGA, he is responsible for the overall function of the regulatory body, focusing on developing and maintaining high performance culture which focuses on productivity and quality. Furthermore, he also oversees the Inspectorate Operations Department and the Criminal Probity Screening Department. It may benefit the MGA to appoint internally since Christopher Formosa knows how the regulatory body runs and how to make its employees tick.
5. Juanita Brockdorff
Juanita Brockdorff is a partner in EmTech Leader (Non-Tech) and Tax for KPMG. She has spent most of her career providing advice to multinationals seeking assistance and also worked in corporate taxation, since joining KPMG in 2002. Juanita Brockdorff is a leader and influencer as she has managed to bring a team of professionals together to assist EmTech clients. She also has vast knowledge in cryptocurrencies, AI and DLT by providing feedback on planned legislations by the government. Amazingly, her set of skills and expertise do not stop here as she also has a number of clients in the gaming industry who she delivers restructuring advice. Juanita has been an advisor for most of her career and it would be interesting to see her take on the role of CEO at the MGA where she can really apply her knowledge at the best of her abilities to take the Gaming industry in Malta to the next level and potentially influence its digital economy.
6. Ivan Filletti
Ivan Filletti holds the position of Chief Operations Officer for the Gaming Malta Foundation. Together with his team Ivan ensures that Malta retains its status as Home of Gaming Excellence. Prior to joining GamingMalta, Ivan was the CEO for an advertising agency across both Malta and Greece: TBWA/ANG. He served as crucial means in leading his agency to winning major new business accounts including Bank of Valletta and servicing major-league companies such as McDonald’s, Nissan and Mr Green. Ivan Filletti would make a great contender as he’s already proved his mission to ensure connection with different parts of the gaming ecosystem. He has continuously helped in the promotion and acceleration of growth across various several gaming sectors.
7. Carl Brincat
Dr. Carl Brincat, an advocate by profession, joined the MGA legal team in 2014. He was part of the legislative overhaul for the gaming industry in Malta which saw a new regulatory framework being implemented. His current role at the MGA is the Chief Legal and Enforcement Officer with his main areas of expertise focusing on gaming regulation, general legal, regulatory affairs and dispute resolution. His responsibility does not stop here as Dr. Brincat is also responsible for legal affairs with other external stakeholders and the Maltese government. With his ties with the government and his heavy involvement with the new gaming regulatory framework as one of the principal drafters, Dr. Brincat seems to be the favourite in taking Heathcliff Farrugia’s place due to his connections and understanding of the new framework.
8. Reuben Portanier
Reuben Portanier is the former CEO of the MGA and is a professional at C-level with vast experience with executive management in the consultancy, technology and gaming sectors. Mr. Portanier also acted as an advisor to the government on Gaming Policy and European Regulatory policy. His experience also extends abroad as he was one of the European Commission's Expert Group Members on the European Union Action Plan for Online Gaming. Furthermore, back in 2013, Mr. Portanier was awarded by the Gaming Intelligence Magazine, as one of the 50 most influential people in the gaming industry. It may be hard to see the former CEO return to his role, especially due to his other commitments such as Caledo (Co-founder), Director (Business Advisory) of GTG Advocates and AfilaXion - a company he co-founded in 2016 but if he does decide to throw his name among applicants then it will certainly benefit the MGA.
Eight different candidates, each of which comes with combined set of strengths and weaknesses. It is important that whoever takes on the role generates change but maintains stability due to the undergoing investigations of Moneyval.
We hope that the whole process will go as smoothly as possible and wish the best of luck to the selected candidate!
About SiGMA College:
The iGaming industry is growing and expanding at a staggering rate. People who entered the market 10 years ago might find themselves lacking in certain areas of knowledge today, that’s why SiGMA College is offering a diploma in gaming! This is an introductory online course, which will be offered completely free of charge to a global audience, and will be aimed at people looking to diversify their knowledge or at people looking to enter the industry for the first time. Should you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact Emily Micallef.