Last Updated on Thursday, 20 April, 2023 at 11:01 am by Andre Camilleri
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) said it is “unable to comment in specific terms” on the claims made by the NGO Young Africans Fighting Online Gambling (YAFOG) that “Malta-based gaming companies are targeting millions of African youths”.
This is because the article in which this story was broken, authored by The Shift, “lacks specifics that shed light on and corroborate the claims being made”.
YAFOG are quoted as saying that “online gambling, orchestrated by companies in Malta, are actively targeting Africa and creating the conditions that will lock millions of generational treasures into a lifetime of poverty”.
The NGO goes on to say that “our children are not ‘prospects’ for the online gambling industry to profit from”.
YAFOG states that “online gambling is now recognised to be the new entry point for radicalisation, no longer to an ideology but to a lifestyle marketed by the industry”.
“That is why the online gambling industry is assessed by the European Union to be a high risk sector for money laundering schemes and the financing of terrorism,” YAFOG said.
They further state that what’s occurring is an “unthinkable deception” on behalf of the Maltese people and that “if the people of Malta don’t ask their government to stop, they can expect more mass migration problems in the near future”.
According to The Shift article, “Malta’s public coffers make millions of euros in tax revenue from the roughly €2 billion in annual turnover the local industry sees yearly”.
Indeed, according to audited financial statements, published by the MGA, for the year ending on 31 December 2021 (the latest date for which data was available), “the Authority registered a surplus of €69.6 million” in 2021.
According to The Shift article “Malta hosts over 10% of the world’s online gaming companies, which, in turn, provide the country with around 10% of its gross domestic product, significant tax revenues and over 10,000 well-paid jobs”.
In response to these allegations, the MGA, answering to questions by The Malta Independent on Sunday, said that the article on The Shift includes “a number of statistics … without the backing evidence that would enable us, in turn, to analyse and compare them to the data that we hold”.
“All gaming companies operating under an MGA licence must be fully compliant with the regulatory and legislative requirements imposed by Maltese law, wherever their customers may reside,” the MGA went on.
In relation to measures of protection, the MGA said that “the requirements relating to player protection are robust, evidence-based and subjected to audits by the MGA and by independent external service providers”.
When pressed whether this also includes players who happen to fall outside of Malta’s jurisdiction, the MGA replied in the affirmative, stating that “all gaming companies operating under an MGA licence must be fully compliant with the regulatory and legislative requirements imposed by Maltese law, wherever their customers may reside”.
The MGA went on to say that “licensees are required to have strong controls, policies and procedures in place which cater for all aspects, from basic elements such as age verification to ensure that minors do not avail themselves of the gaming services, to more advanced requirements such as monitoring players for potential markers of harm which may indicate that they have developed – or are likely to develop – a gambling problem”.
These detection obligations are complemented by legal requirements for licensees to have in place the means to offer self-help tools to players, as well as to refer them to external organisations which may assist them where required.
MGA licensees take these obligations very seriously and we continuously drive a culture of care for players, encouraging them to gamble sustainably and within their means, the Authority said. That said, one must also emphasise the importance of players cultivating self-management strategies and making use of the help and support available.
YAFOG highlighted that this very issue was also put to the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola during the Mabel Strickland Memorial Lecture in March earlier this year.
An audience member said that “we applaud ourselves on the contribution of the gaming sector to our GDP but to me this is a very big worry as gaming is spreading the exploitation of African children who are being introduced to gaming at a young age; we have to make sure that gaming companies are not the destruction of future economies”.
Metsola demurely responded by saying that “sometimes the due diligence of our companies or organisations, established all over the EU, only focus on their bottom line and their economic impact rather than the direct or indirect consequences”.
“I would always be concerned and I think that there’s a huge emerging problem with the way we dialogue with third countries and we did discuss with the African Union for many months last year.”
YAFOG also spoke about the Pope’s recent comments earlier this year at a speech in Kinshasa wherein he denounced the oppressive political and economic shackles which were subjugating the continent.
“What do the people of Malta want for Africa? Ruination fuelled by this targeting or ‘Hands off Africa’ as the Pope has asked of the people of Malta?” YAFOG concluded.