Nearly 1,400 gamblers bar themselves from casinos

The number of self-exclusion requests from casinos rose from 1,277 in 2016 to 1,393 in 2017

Nearly 1,400 gamblers bar themselves from casinos
Nearly 1,400 gamblers bar themselves from casinos

The number of individuals who requested to be barred from land-based casinos in Malta rose by 9% in the last year, a report by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has revealed.

The number of self-exclusion requests rose from 1,277 in 2016 to 1,393 in 2017. Over half of these were for a period of six months, while the rest were for the period of a year.

Only one individual chose to be barred indefinitely.

Gaming operators licensed under the MGA are obliged to offer a self-barring facility to customers, as stipulated in the Self-Barring Directive of 2011.

This applies for operators of both land-based and online casinos, and is a legal requirement that needs to be provided by all licences.

“The self-barring programme is one of the interventions aimed to minimise negative impacts of gambling, and it plays an important role in the recovery process of affected individuals,” the report read.

Contrary to popular perception that a rise in gambling in Malta could have been brought about due to the increase in foreigners, the figures reveal that a vast majority – 76% – of self-barred individuals were Maltese.

But a number of non-Maltese players also made use of the option to bar themselves from land-based outlets such as casinos, gaming parlours, and bingo halls. Italians made up 4% of foreigners making use of this facility, while 2% were Syrian, 2% Bulgarian, 2% Romanian and 2% Somali.

The majority of self-barred players over the past three years have consistently been male – 71% in 2017.

In its 2017 report, the Gaming Authority said that the new gaming framework will be “strengthening player protection” in a number of ways: it will be formalising the mediatory role of the MGA’s Player Support Unit, enshrining segregation of player funds at law, and moving towards a unified self-exclusion database across both remote and land-based delivery channels.

Players opting to exclude themselves seem to be getting younger, too. While individuals aged between 35-45 were the most likely to request self-barring since 2015, a considerable growth in self-barring was registered for players between the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups between 2016 and 2017 – amounting to 22% and 27% respectively.

But while the report states that this increase “might reflect the increased effectiveness of outreach gambling awareness programmes,” a founding member of a Caritas Foundation for the victims of usury, Fr John Avellino, is less hopeful.

“Unfortunately, a large number of new casinos have opened up lately, which have made it easier for people to fall into the habit. Even though they are legal… they are a temptation.” he said, adding that an increase in requests for self-barring are a natural consequence to the fact that more casinos are cropping up, and more people are gambling.

“Only a small fraction of people would admit to having a problem and seek help, because it is not easy to do so,” he said, explaining that gamblers seek their services “regularly”.

In fact, he said that although individuals resort to usury for a number of reasons, gambling problems are the “prime reason” they would seek help from the foundation, Avellino said.

Online gaming operators are obliged to offer
self-exclusion facilities in the same manner as land-based ones.

In 2017, the total number of self-exclusion requests for online gaming websites licensed by the MGA accounted to just below 790,000 – an increase of 5.3% from the previous year.