The campaign to combat gambling addiction aims to educate both children and their parents.
Silvio Schembri, chairman of the Responsible Gaming Foundation, has announced plans for a rehab centre for pathological gamblers. The foundation started functioning recently and one of its first major campaigns aims to offer help for people who suffer from gambling addiction.
“The World Health Organization has listed gambling as one of the top diseases in the world. In Malta, however, gambling tends to be treated through programmes which are also directed at alcoholism,” Schembri told reporters.
The foundation has started to map out its plans and initiatives for the next four years and one of its goals is to educate children, as well as adults about the seriousness and consequences of problem gambling. Projects include a rehabilitation centre for people who are addicted to casino games.
Gambling and social responsibility
Popular gambling operators licensed in Malta include:
• Betfair Casino
• bet-at-home Casino
• Betsson Casino
The government is trying to figure out a system to help gamblers and their families, through the independent foundation financed by the state and by a number of companies which operate licensed online casinos in Malta.
Now Economic Growth Parliamentary Secretary José Herrera told reporters that the government was working on a project which would bring together experts working at the University of Malta and employees of the Lotteries and Gaming Authority, to put together a team of people trained to help problem gamblers.
“It’s about striking a balance between promoting the gaming industry, which provides a large percentage of the GDP, and our corporate social responsibility,” Herrera said.
All licensed operators have to follow a clear set of guidelines and responsible gaming policies, Lotteries and Gaming Authority chairman Joseph Cuschieri pointed out. Some of them even took the initiative of banning players who were gambling too much.
“The authority is also one of very few European regulators that have a player support function, meaning players can complain directly to us rather than being referred to a consumer entity,” Cuschieri added.
National prevention policy
The Responsible Gaming Foundation was launched in February and Labour MP Silvio Schembri has recently been appointed chairman. The politician accepted the job on a voluntary basis, allowing more money to be allocated for projects developed by the independent foundation.
The Lotteries and Gaming Authority decided to transfer a certain percentage of its proceeds to the foundation and Cuschieri said he was confident that the new chairman would use his experience to put the money to good use.
Meanwhile, Malta’s gambling industry is flourishing, offering over 7,000 jobs and making up about 10% of the country’s gross domestic product. Social solidarity minister Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said the foundation “it will play an important role as a safeguard as the government is embarking on a national prevention policy.”
Edward Zammit Lewis, the secretary for competitiveness and economic growth told reporters: “Our priority is to increase regulation and strengthen enforcement. We want to attract new niches, which will in turn create new jobs and bolster the country’s tax revenues which we will use to strengthen social policy, education and health services.”
Promoting licensed services
Officials have also stressed the importance of educating customers about the importance of choosing licensed casino operators. The initiative is part of a larger campaign to kill illegal gambling.
Herrera said choosing underground operators is dangerous for customers. This is how people end up spending more than they can afford, then borrowing money to pay their debts, which leads to an increased level of criminality.
Luckily, local players have plenty of options because the country has one of the most successful online casino markets, thanks to its well-written Maltese gambling laws.
As part of a bigger picture, Coleiro Preca announced that local authorities are planning a national prevention strategy which will involve sectors such as alcohol and drug abuse, usury, obesity and gambling.