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Responsible Gaming Foundation (RGF)

1.1 Background

The Responsible Gaming Foundation (RGF) was founded on the 18th February 2014 by the then parliamentary secretary for competitiveness and economic growth Edward Zammit Lewis and by the then Social Solidarity Minister Marie Louise Coleiro Preca. The requirement for an independent Foundation emerged following the debate in Parliament on the amendments of the Lotteries and other Games Act ( Cap. 438 of the Laws of Malta) to introduce regulations governing land-based gaming parlours. The Government and Opposition agreed on the establishment of a fund to promote responsible gaming and initiatives/studies in relation to responsible gaming measures and actions.

Hon. Silvio Schembri is the Chairman of the Responsible Gaming Foundation. The board of the Foundation is composed of the following board members:

• Mr. George Debrincat ( Director of Unibet)
• Mr. HeathCliff Farrugia ( COO of MGA)
• Mr. Frances Galea ( Chief of Staff at the Ministry for the family and Solidarity)
• Ms. Carmen Nygaard ( Senior Probation Officer)

1.2 Mission Statement

To create a wider awareness of the extent, possible causes and consequences of problem gaming in Malta with a view to preventing it and to provide the necessary support and advice to problem gamblers and their dependents in their recovery efforts.

1.3 Aims and Objectives

The Foundation shall administer funds donated or collected from the Maltese gaming sector, be it online or offline and direct them to its main mission. This has been identified as to:

• Administer funds collected for the support mechanisms for individuals who are in some way affected by gaming-related problems
• Promote fair gaming and responsible markets
• Undergo further research into problem gambling
• Increase awareness on gambling addiction through information campaigns
• Embark on advertising campaigns earmarked at convincing gamblers to stop
• Assist and promote activities alternative to gambling
• Promote and/or provide services for the rehabilitation of problem gambler
• Protect the young and vulnerable
• Safeguard against money laundering.

2.1 The Call Centre

The operation of a Call Centre is only one of the services being offered by the RGF. As stated in the Business Plan of the RGF, one of its main goals is to set-up a new helpline for the vulnerable group of people whose lives have been inflicted by the wide range of social problems associated by gambling problems or addiction. Pathological Gambling is considered as a disease by the World Health Organisation. Thus, the main purpose of this Call Centre is to provide constant support and guidance to those individuals who are experiencing gambling problems or addictions. It is proven that such social problems also negatively affect the close social network of the respective persons. Thus, this service shall also offer emotional support and guidance to the gambler’s family members or close friends deliberately to help them cope with the daily stress that problematic gambling/addiction brings with it.

Help can be sought through the Helpline number 1777 and callers are not charged when contact is made with the Call Centre. Eventually, the Helpline will operate 24/7 and confidentiality is maintained provided that criteria for breach of confidentiality are not present. This service is provided only to those individuals who approach the agency on a voluntary basis. Currently, the Helpline will operate from 8am till 8pm on a daily basis.

The helpline also caters for those individuals who would like to seek help online through a chat service which is also available on the RGF website www.rgf.org.mt . This feature will enable those individuals who also gamble online to access help the same way they gamble. The provision of online support will also facilitate those individuals who prefer to use internet as a medium to interact and request help. By incorporating this feature together with the free telephone calls, the RGF will increase its availability and accessibility to cater for the needs of this target group whilst still ensuring anonymity and confidentiality.

Main aims of the Helpline are to:

• Provide a supportive space for people affected by gambling problems where individuals will not be judged by any behaviour/choices they may have carried out to support their behavioural addiction. Individuals will be given a safe space where they can share their life difficulties related to gambling and will be empowered to embrace the necessarily changes required for a better well- being.
• To support problematic gamblers or addicts who voluntarily request for help or who are in recovery.
• To create a safe and an accessible environment for gamblers to share their urges, thoughts, compulsions and help them organise their thoughts rather than acting on impulse.
• Offer information and provide guidance regarding existent services in our community which can help further and deeper the individual according to one’s needs.
• Offer emotional support both to the gamblers and also his/her significant others in a different, yet therapeutic manner. The Helpline will be an available source where they can vent out and be emotionally validated and supported.
• Promote concepts of ‘Self-care’, ‘empowerment’, ‘boundaries’ and ‘individualisation’ among family members/friends of the gambler.
• To deal with any crisis that the caller may be passing through as a result of his/her own gambling problem or of a significant member such as a family crisis.

2.2 The Corporate Social Responsibility Programme

One of the programmes mentioned in the business plan of the Foundation is that of The Corporate Social Responsibility Programme (CSRP). The latter is aimed at giving something back to the society with the money the foundation collects from the gaming sector and to encourage entertaining activities alternative to gambling.

All initiatives undertaken in good spirit to promote recreational activities among citizens will be eligible for funding. Depending on the amount of requested funds and the total number of applications, the board of the Responsible Gaming Foundation together with an Evaluation Committee will be responsible for the allocation of funds according to a set of criteria.

A call for applications was opened on the 1st of February until 27th February 2015. 31 applications forms from Malta & Gozo were received. 21 applications were considered eligible applicants for CSRP varying from €1,000 -€6,000. Another rolling call is open throughout the year for those organisations who would like to receive financial assistance for projects that promote recreational activities alternative to gaming. The maximum amount of money which this fund can grant is up to €1,000.

2.3 Educational Campaigns

Planning and coordination for Education Campaign is ongoing with RGF staff liaising with college principals, head of schools and primary school teachers. The education campaign has gained rhythm with information and interactive sessions for year 4 students being held in Isla, Birgu, Bormla, Kalkara, Siggiewi, Lija, Qormi and Birkirkara. Schools have been asking RGF to hold information sessions to parents, teachers and secondary school students. In Kalkara, members of RGF team held a professional development session for teachers and an information session for form 5 students coming from San Anton private schools.

Furthermore, talks are underway with Stella Maris College in Gzira for RGF to participate and put up a stand in their open day in May.

The main aim of the Educational Campaign is to raise awareness among students regarding the dangerous risks associated with excessive gambling. Hands on activities are done to help them understand such concept and emphasis is particularly made on the fact that gambling should not be considered as a money-making activity but for recreational purposes. Together with the Foundation’s mascot, activities are carried out so that students obtain a better understanding of the reality that the probability to win is very low when compared to the losses endured in gambling.

2.4 Research

Local research regarding this social problem is relatively poor in Malta and the only data available is based on an international or European context. Thus, RGF aims to conduct research initiatives purposely to gather additional information that reflects the impact of gambling problems/addiction within a Maltese context. In the coming future, the Foundation will also fund projects to financially support research that sheds more light about the extensive effects of this ever-growing industry in Malta. 

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