The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

National gambling helpline (1777) launched by Responsible Gaming Foundation

Tuesday, 29 September 2015, 13:03 Last update: about 6 years ago

The Responsible Gaming Foundation launched the national helpline (1777) to support and guide those individuals, and their families, who suffer from gambling related problems.

One can contact the helpline through the aforementioned freephone number or through chat which can be found at www.rgf.org.mt.

Parliamentary Secretary Jose Herrera added that 1,043 persons have been self-barred as of 2014, up from 970 in 2013. He said the foundation was set up around a year and a half ago, and has a number of responsibilities including offering financial help to cultural, civic or sport organisations in order to provide projects to help those who need support for addiction.

"People must not be controlled by the recreational activity, as that is detrimental to the person as well as their family".

He said that together with the Ministry for Education, they are teaching children of a certain age to be responsible in everything they do.

He explained that those manning the helpline have been trained and went through an intensive and specialised course.

The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that the foundation does not cost the country much, as most of the funds acquired come from the private sector. "In the gaming sector, there is a strong sense of corporate social responsibility". He said that the Gaming Authority does directly contribute.

Originally Dr Herrera said that government was agressively promoting igaming, however questioned by this newsroom clarified and explained that he meant this "in the sense that Malta is a large jurisdiction and a large proportion of our economy depends on it".

He added - "we are not saying we are against gaming. nobody in Malta can imagine eradicating this industry as it employs almost 9,000 people. You have to counterbalance the ills that come out of gaming by creating the necessary structures to ensure that there is responsible gaming". He explained that this is why the government involved the church, the education ministry and the private sector.

Dr Herrera said that Malta is benefitting from the industry, but there are a number of casualties, what one needs to do is minimise the number of casualties there are. He said one wouldn't close the entertainment industry just because of some injuries in Paceville, but rather that one would increase police presence and educate youths to enjoy themselves responsibly."Any activity if abused can have its ills".

Chairman of the Responsible Gaming Foundation Silvio Schembri said that gambling is a well-integrated activity in Maltese culture, mentioning that during WW2, gaming was still active in Malta.

He said that greater prominence should be made in educating citizens to only gamble for recreational purposes and not be controlled by the recreational activity. The helpline, he said, will remain open from 8am to 8pm on a daily basis and will have the possibility of opening 24/7 if there is the need later on.

He said that the most reasonable road to take was to educate people on responsible gaming. He explained that persons addicted to gambling have a tendency to keep the problem to themselves, and the chatroom gives those who feel more comfortable chatting online, the opportunity to speak about their problem online. He stressed that there is no helpline which provides specific aid to those who suffer from gambling addiction, until now.

Chief Operating Officer of the Malta Gaming Authority Heathcliff Farrugia said that since the inception of the Responsible Gaming Foundation, there has been no official network where problem gamblers and their families can relate to in order to seek the necessary help. He said the helpline launched today, will provide the appropriate assistance to the persons concerned.

Mr Farrugia said that this call centre was one of the principle reasons for the foundation's creation. "Many a time people would ask for help from Sedqa and Caritas, while this was not one of their principle aims when set up". He said that the most worrying was when people believed no form of help for those addicted to gambling existed.

"Everyone knows the importance of this industry for Malta, and this is why we should continue to help it grow and strengthen, however this cannot be done without help for those who fall into addiction".

Call centre Manager Lorraine Mifsud called gambling dependency a disease "which brings with it other life problems such as ones related to mental health as well as social problems".


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