MaltaToday | 9 March 2008 | Election black market betting activity plummets

NEWS | Sunday, 09 March 2008

Election black market betting activity plummets

David Darmanin

Several social and community workers have confirmed with MaltaToday that they have received information on gamblers who have taken massive risks on the prospective winners of these elections.
“Some have gone to the extent of risking their domicile, or their cars,” a community leader said. However, neither of them could confirm whether betting on these current elections may have in somehow been affected by the newly introduced online betting available on, and
Contacted by this newspaper, political odds compiler for Unibet Lennart Ehlinger said: “This is the first time we’re taking bets on an election in Malta. Of course, we’ve been offering bets on elections in other countries for a long time now – be it in the US or in different parts of Europe. So far, we’re pleasantly surprised with the turn out. It was well received in Malta and this is probably due to the fact that the Maltese are well informed on political affairs. The way it works is not very different from sports.”
But will this new form of gaming hinder black market betting, and therefore suppress usury in Malta? And could legalised gaming promote gambling in general, and therefore, attract new people to the both legal and illegal types of the game?
“I would be able to give you more information in a few weeks time, when victims of usury will be approaching us for help after elections,” St Augustine parish priest Francis Saviour Grima told MaltaToday.
In contrast to the success some betting websites may be witnessing, a bookmaker who spoke to MaltaToday on condition of anonymity said: “So far it looks quiet. It was different in the referendum. Anyone who had money in their pockets played it on that election.”
The bookmaker explained that although he does not exclude that online gambling may be the cause of the black market slowdown, the decline may also be due to other factors.
“Supporters of both parties know it’s very close, so a lot of people will not risk,” he said. “You must understand that gamblers are different from normal people. We have to make a distinction between playing with a passion for politics and betting that results from the compulsion of gambling. Passionate gamblers come mainly from the Labour side, because the party is favoured. They will bet to increase the satisfaction of winning. Not everyone likes to show off whom they’re voting for. With betting on politics, remember that you’re committing your vote not just by talking, but also by putting money in it. Mind you, people have money in their pockets, and they’re not betting because they don’t have money. They’re not betting because it’s a close call and because not everyone likes to show which party they’re voting for.”
Asked whether he thinks that online betting may have slowed down street gambling, he said: “It could be. Yesterday I accessed the Betfair website and saw a graphic of how many people betted, and it looked pretty good, for them.”
On his part, Human Resources Manager for Betfair Mark Galea told Malta today : “This is the first local initiative taken on political betting. This is more of an experiment, on the sideline. Really and truly, our business is mainly generated from overseas. In fact, the proceeds gained from this particular game will be forwarded to charity, as we did with another local initiative we took when Juventus came to Malta.”
When asked, Galea immediately denied that the particular organisation benefiting from this sportive event was chosen on grounds of it dealing with countless families who were left in destitution due to compulsive gambling. He explained that the organisation in question approached Betfair with the idea, and not vice-versa. He reiterated that the charitable initiative was taken “because we like to help.” He also mentioned that other organisations have benefited, such as LifeCycle.
Galea explained that Betfair considers responsible voting as “extremely important.”
“Our new recruits attend a 15-day course, out of which one whole day is dedicated to responsible gambling. We also include four separate sessions on how to identify problem gamblers,” he said.
“At the risk of sounding classist, I like to see Betfair as the Moet et Chandon of betting, and as you may be well aware it is not in the interest of Moet et Chandon to turn its customers into alcoholics,” he added.
Speaking to MaltaToday, Sedqa operations director Jean-Claude Cardona explained : “Sedqa’s position on legalised gambling, whether in the form of games of chance, sport betting, internet gaming, bingo, lotteries and other forms of betting such as on current affairs, is based on two main factors. Firstly, the over-riding need to protect young people from being enticed to participate in this activity; and secondly, awareness that availability of the possibility to gamble will encourage use by individuals who would normally not gamble and engender abuse by a proportion of those who indulge in this behaviour.
 “The local gambling scene has seen exponential growth rate due to the increase in the availability of gambling. Liberalisation has surely been the reason behind this growth. The argument that legalised gambling suffocates illegal gambling might be partially true; however it offers and widens the opportunities to gamble by persons who would not have normally considered gambling illegally. Offering legalised betting on current affairs such as elections will follow the same pattern just described, legitimising further an activity society would essentially be better off without by giving it an added veneer of respectability.
 “Legalised gambling is, for Sedqa, at best a necessary evil that in many ways can and should be curtailed if the authorities give due importance to analysing the social impact before such decisions are taken.”

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