The Responsible Gaming Foundation, which was founded in 2014, launched another of its projects for this year. Indeed, a National Helpline was set up to provide support and guidance to those individuals, family members or significant other who are experiencing any problems related to gambling. Individuals in need can contact the Helpline either through its freephone 1777 or through a chat facility which can be easily accessed through the Responsible Gaming Foundation’s website www.rgf.org.mt. Callers can choose to remain anonymous and any obtained information will be treated confidential.
“Everyone knows the importance of the gaming industry in Malta, and this is why we should continue to help it grow and be stronger, however this cannot be done without help for those who fall into the gambling addiction,” said the Malta Gaming Authority’s (MGA) Chief Officer – Operations, Heathcliff Farrugia. “One of the main reasons for the inception of the Foundation was the introduction of this call centre so as to cater for gambling problems”, added Mr Farrugia.
Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness and Economic Growth, Hon. Jose` Herrera underlined the significant bearing that the gaming industry has on our economic growth. Hon. Herrera acknowledged the excellent work which the Malta Gaming Authority is doing in this regard, whilst also praised the Responsible Gaming Foundation for its involvement to promote responsible use of gaming. Nevertheless, Hon. Herrera added that one has to cater also for those individuals who are unable to perceive gambling as a recreational activity because of their loss of control. In fact, the main aim of the Helpline 1777 is to help individuals and their families who are experiencing any problems related to problematic gambling/dependency.
The Parliamentary Secretary added that professional help is necessary when the gambler’s main priorities in life revolve around gambling activities only. Indeed, the main aim of the Helpline 1777 is to support these individuals and their families in their afflictions and other life difficulties that may arise from this behavioural dependency. Till the present date, there is no statistics which can shed light on the extent of such a problem. “Statistics from MGA only indicates that in 2014, the rate of people who made use of the self-barring service increased to 1,043 persons when compared to the 970 individuals in 2013.”
The chairperson of the RGF, Hon. Silvio Schembri stated that gaming is a well-integrated concept in our Maltese culture and greater effort should be made in educating our citizens to pursuit gambling for recreational purposes only. Yet, once a person forms a dependency, the individual can never become a responsible gambler. “The Foundation is operating this Helpline as in Malta as to date there is not yet a helpline which specifically supports this vulnerable group in need of support and guidance.” Hon. Silvio Schembri emphasised that the Helpline 1777 will also support the gambler’s family members and significant others as they too experience various negative repercussions. MP. Silvio Schembri underlined the fact that this is a social problem and that it is our responsibility to help these people instead of “ignoring or excluding them.”
Ms. Lorraine Mifsud, Call Centre Manager explained in further details the aims of this innovative service. She described gambling dependency as a disease “which brings along other life difficulties such as mental health problems, psychological, physical and also social problems.” In the near future, Helpline 1777 will also be available 24/7 for the general public to assist them in their difficulties.