Clean up ap­peal

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Pre­dictably the ap­peal made by Sil­vio Schem­bri MP in Par­lia­ment on Tues­day night did not even reg­is­ter with the Mal­tese pub­lic.

The hour was late, the pa­pers closed, and most prob­a­bly many peo­ple will have switched off their Par­lia­ment view­ing at the end of a drowsy sit­ting.

But Mr Schem­bri’s ap­peal de­serves a wider pub­lic hear­ing.

In his speech, apart from other is­sues, Mr Schem­bri ap­pealed for some sort of con­trol over the many bet­ting shops that have mush­roomed in our towns and vil­lages.

He cor­rectly pointed out that some of the most dis­tressed ar­eas, towns or vil­lages, seem to have the most bet­ting shops and won­dered if there was a cor­re­la­tion.

He was care­ful not to politi­cise the is­sue but ac­tu­ally this blight is mostly the re­sult of the in­abil­ity of the PN ad­min­is­tra­tion to tackle the prob­lem. The suc­ceed­ing PL ad­min­is­tra­tion, of which Mr Schem­bri forms part, did noth­ing ei­ther.

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The re­sult is what we can see around us in most towns and vil­lages – bet­ting shops of­fer­ing not just the Maltco lot­ter­ies, which would be ac­cept­able on the whole, but instant bet­ting op­por­tu­ni­ties on races, foot­ball matches and what not of­fered on satel­lite tele­vi­sions.

All this can be done from home by peo­ple who have In­ter­net. But these bet­ting shops (for want of a bet­ter term) ex­ist pre­cisely for peo­ple who do not have In­ter­net, hence the lower lev­els of so­ci­ety.

There are today ef­forts both by Maltco and by the Gam­ing Au­thor­ity to con­trol heavy bet­ting es­pe­cially in shops (since they are al­most pow­er­less to deal with the pri­vate per­son in his home on his com­puter) but the very fact these shops seem to thrive and mul­ti­ply in most vil­lages and towns seems to in­di­cate busi­ness is thriv­ing.

Ad­mit­tedly, there are huge le­gal ob­sta­cles to re­ally con­trol this sec­tor. But the le­gal ar­gu­ments that were brought in to en­able the wide­spread pro­lif­er­a­tion of these bet­ting shops found a gov­ern­ment that was weak to im­pose re­stric­tions.

One can go to any other coun­try abroad and one will surely not find this amount of con­cen­tra­tion in towns and vil­lages. There must be some­thing that works abroad but which is not work­ing here.

We are not told the fig­ures, but there must be fig­ures some­where that tell of peo­ple fall­ing into the poverty trap by fre­quent at­ten­dance at such shops. There must be sto­ries wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered about peo­ple fall­ing vic­tims to money lenders, amass­ing huge debts, break­ing up fam­i­lies, etc.

Pos­si­bly, one ar­gu­ment that may have car­ried the day when this sys­tem was al­lowed was that just as al­most all types of shops are al­lowed to be set up and the risk be­ing car­ried by the own­ers only, so too there had to be no limit on the peo­ple who opened bet­ting shops in the towns and vil­lages.

It is a sad com­ment that there are lim­its to open a phar­macy but no lim­its to open a bet­ting shop.

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