Malta: investigators say illegal operation taking 30% of lottery market

The unregulated game is pegged to the Malta National Lottery.
The unregulated game is pegged to the Malta National Lottery.

Local media have reported that an illegal lottery is stealing close to a third of Malta lottery sales.

Malta.- Investigators have reportedly claimed that an illegal lottery operation is stealing up to 30 per cent of sales from Malta’s official national lottery. MaltaToday says that financial investigators became aware of the operation after the arrest of Melvin Theuma in relation to the 2019 assassination of the journalist Caruana Galizia.

MaltaToday reports that it has been informed that the current operators of the illegal lottery inherited the operation, or part of it, from Theuma, who has turned State’s evidence in exchange for a presidential pardon.

“We estimate that 30 per cent of well over €30m that gets played in the legitimate lottery market every year, could be played in the illegal lotto,” one source was quoted as saying.

The parallel lotto is pegged to Malta’s National Lottery. Players bet on the same numbers and win depending on the numbers drawn in the official game.

“The major operators of this illegal lotto are a few, but they each have a corner of the island or ‘districts’ that fall under their control, with their runners taking the numbers in the village bars and każini,” one source said, adding that many operators had ties to construction and the property market.

“They all have legitimate businesses – they are well known in town, they can be respectable types who get snapped with local politicos in the village festa. But construction is important to them because it is a world where cash transactions are constantly used. And with the volumes of cash they collect on a monthly basis… well it has to be cleaned somehow, or in some cases given to charity, if it enhances their respectability.

“The parallel lotto is a fact of life in the village bars where it is played – regulars have a tab with the runners, where they always play the same numbers,” the source added.

Malta National Lottery

Last July, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) issued a new ten-year licence for Malta’s National Lottery. The regulator granted the licence to IZI Group’s National Lottery PLC, which replaced Maltco Lotteries Limited as the operator of the lottery.

The new operator was granted exclusive rights after the government’s Privatisation Unit issued a Request for Proposals in July last year. A concession agreement was signed by the Ministry for the Economy, European Funds and Lands in March 2022.

It’s the first time in 18 years that a fully Maltese-owned company has operated the lottery. It was the second attempt by IZI Group to win the licence after it participated in the last bid in 2012 but lost against Maltco Lotteries. Owned by Intralot, Associated Supplies Limited and The Players Group (24 per cent), Maltco Lotteries has run the Malta National Lottery since its privatisation in 2003 but did not participate in the latest tender.

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