The return to work from the summer recess of the Malta Parliament will see a renewed drive to complete debates on a new set of gambling regulations aimed at regulating video lottery terminals and other gambling arcades that have mushroomed around the island, reports the Malta Independent newspaper.
Police have recently conducted a number of illegal gambling raids on the Mediterranean island (see previous reports) and the official opposition party says it is time for the government to quickly implement new regulations controlling the establishment of gambling outlets, in the process clarifying the situation and raising tax revenues.
Shadow Finance Minister Charles Mangion told the the Malta Independent: "There must be no further delays in the implementation of regulations for the gambling and Video Lottery Terminals sector.
"We have been calling for the government to regulate the sector for a long time since a level playing field must be established for the operators while the authorities watch over the social interest of gamblers," he said.
Mangion said that he believes that gamblers, even in the case of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs), must be over the age of 25, as is the norm with local casinos.
Noting the police action and subsequent court applications for the return of gambling equipment, Mangion said that the police actions were the result of the government's mismanagement and bad administration. No such action would have been necessary had the market been regularised before gambling arcades sprang up, he remarked.
Owners of the gambing operations concerned were critical of the Malta licensing agency - the LGA - which they felt had misled them in presenting a VLT Regulations Roll-Out Plan in October 2007. Besides proposing regulations following a two-year-long consultation process with stakeholders, the plan said that by the end of 2008, all machines had to be in line with regulations and compatible with the central monitoring system that LGA was supposed to create.
One operator invested some Euro 5.5 million in new machinery and the sector had 400 employees up to the first week of August. However, LGA did not have the necessary framework set up and the government had not presented the proposals to Parliament by the end of 2008. It appeared as if everyone had forgotten the deadlines involved, now brought into sharp focus by official action.
Operators further claim that the now departed former LGA CEO, Mario Galea had told them that a general exemption applied because of the delay in legislature, however the law did not allow Galea to give such an exemption, which was only given by word of mouth.
Gambling arcade operators now await the regulations, which Finance Minister Tonio Fenech promised to present to Parliament following the summer recess.