The Malta Independent 22 July 2024, Monday
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Gaming History in Malta

Malta Independent Saturday, 14 August 2010, 00:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

It is inherent in human nature to try one’s luck. Over the course of time the sophistication and intensity of gaming has grown to unprecedented proportions with online gaming companies and a myriad of legislation to regulate this ever-increasing industry. Indeed gaming is very addictive and can lead to many a broken life.

It was in 1st Century China and Rome when funds were raised by lotteries. The Hun Dynasty in China collected these monies for use in the country’s defense, primarily to finance the construction of the Great Wall of China

Forms of lotteries date back to Augustus Caesar. Caesar had a public lottery to raise funds for the restoration of Rome. There are references to lotteries in the Bible. The Bible describes casting lots to divide up land as in the Book of Numbers 33:54.

One of the earliest games in Malta was Ic-Cippitatu. This game was popular with both young and old alike and was quite an attraction especially during feasts and other outdoor activities. It was a common sight during Resurrection Sunday when the winner could win a Maltese figolla. The Cippitatu was a Teetotum with four-sides, each side of which indicated how much the player loses or wins. Among the prizes were marbles and beads. The word Cippitatu is a Maltese rendering of the Latin Accipe Totum (take all) because one of the rules of the game was that the winner would have a clean sweep of the prize. The person organising the game would go round using a dish under his arm and the teetotum in hand. Usually gamers would pay one penny or a half-penny to play.

By the end of the 17th and 18th century lotto was introduced in a number of European countries where it gained instant popularity. It was probably at this time that Maltese bettors were also introduced to the game but it was only in 1922 that the Lotto Act was enacted for the running of lotto in Malta

The Lotto Regulations were published on October 31, 1922. As the Maltese were already accustomed to the Italian lotto, this form of wagering was used as a yardstick. In his book Il guoco del Loto: Profilo Storice dalle Origine ai Nostro Giorni, P. Torre traced the origins of lotto to Genoa in circa 1576.

Bets were accepted on the first name drawn (the primo estratto), two names drawn (ambo) and on the three names drawn (terno). With the passage of time the 120 were reduced to 90. Thus the format of the Italian lotto was brought about. This format was absorbed by the Maltese and included in the Lotto Regulations of 1922.

Not even enemy action during the last world war stopped the lotto game from keeping its weekly appointment.

Soon after the war the Lotto Department was set up. The first director was John Mifsud, an entrepreneur of great drive and initiative. In 1948 he introduced the Malta National Lottery. The popularity of the National Lottery soon spread to overseas markets leading to an influx of funds to Malta. The draws took place at Floriana and broadcast live on radio. The nom de plume of the winner was announced along with his/her town or village.

Illegal gambling and gaming existed in Malta since time immemorial with soccer polls and derby betting being some of the most notorious. Today this has also led to illegal internet gambling. Police raided some 85 gambling arcades in June of this year that were operating without a license, as the Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA) had not issued licences since there were no regulations in place. The arcades were ‘allowed’ to operate for a number of years and before long they had mushroomed all over the islands

Since the Public Lotto Ordinance of 1922, the demand and the sophistication of the gaming industry has developed into a full blown industry that necessitated the enactment of a number of laws covering not only illegal gambling and gaming but also to regulate local gaming halls and the many betting companies operating from Malta. Such legislation covers Lotto Regulations, the Lotto Department, Taxation, Lotto and other Games, Racehorse Betting and a guide to the formation of Trading and Holding Companies.

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