The Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa) will today be discussing the outcome of an application for the opening of a gaming outlet in Cottonera, a matter the Friends of Cottonera Forum and Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) are strongly opposing.
If approved, these outlets would be detrimental to the community and would lead to degradation, at a time when efforts are being focused to upgrade the area, the NGOs say.
Contacted yesterday, Keith Caruana, a spokesperson for the Friends of Cottonera Forum said the Cottonera community is plagued by social problems and the tourism industry is inexistent. He referred to studies showing the ratio of costs for the economy when such parlours are available, is three times greater than their benefits.
The Dock No.1 projects and efforts being undertaken to improve the area would not be sustainable if these outlets are allowed to open because the area would not be attractive to people if social problems increase.
In a statement, FAA explained the application to be decided today is for a betting shop in a historic palazzo on Senglea’s main road, a location from where hundreds of children pass on their way to school, church or the Legion of Mary premises.
A month ago, FAA and the Friends of Cottonera objected to this application before the Mepa, on the grounds that it contravenes the guidelines for what commercial outlets can be permitted for in open conservation areas. This is also due to the fact that it does not enhance the quality of life of residents in the community.
FAA said efforts to improve the social fabric of Cottonera are beginning to bear fruit and the future could be a bright one if cultural tourism is to be developed to the benefit of the residents. FAA and the residents highlight the fact that allowing this application for a gaming room in an old historical building would open the doors to many others and would effectively nullify all the official policies and programmes related to social regeneration and the upgrading of Urban Conservation Areas.
Gaming rooms are contrary to the promotion of good neighbourliness inherent in the Grand Harbour Local Plan which encourages small-scale retail space in or order to keep our towns and villages alive. The change of use from class 4 shop into a class 9 gambling hall would represent a loss of retail shopping space and thus be contrary to policy GL18 of the area plan for Senglea, FAA argued.
Research shows that slot-machine establishments do not target those with disposable incomes but rather those who cannot afford to waste their income.
Given that gambling shops cost the government three times as much in terms of social support structures as the government earns from the gaming industry and given that many people in the Three Cities depend on income support to survive, this sudden interest in opening so many money-squandering establishments can only suggest that this area is being targeted by this unscrupulous industry to the detriment of the communities as a whole.
Gambling shops do not create any employment to speak of, and when gambling merely transfers euros from one pocket to another without creating a tangible product we are made the poorer. The more people gamble to acquire money, the poorer society is and the more social problems are created.
FAA pointed out the Cospicua mayor has successfully been able to stop six applications for gaming rooms in the town. The message is loud and clear that gaming rooms are not welcome in Cospicua.
Meanwhile, the FAA and local residents are disappointed that so far, the Senglea Local Council has failed to take an active role in this matter and hope that this council will be present to protect their community’s interests at MEPA today.