he was speaking at the opening of a two-day training seminar for professionals who offer services related to gambling addiction. The seminar, entitled Counselling problem gamblers, is intended to better equip professionals with the skills required to enable them to deal with clients and the families of people with a gambling problem.
Organised by Sedqa, the national agency against drug and alcohol abuse, which has been offering services related to gambling addiction problems over the past six years, the seminar involves the participation of GamCare, an organisation that addresses issues related to gambling in the UK.
The lecturer delivering this training, Amy Webster, has vast experience in Australia and in the UK as a counsellor, psychologist, manager and trainer.
Minister Cristina said a policy on gambling would provide further solid ground for Sedqa to continue developing and widening its services related to gambling problems.
“It is now time for the services offered by the agency to gain more and more importance on the national agenda in order to provide further support for gamblers and their families,” she said.
She also commented on the changing gambling scene and made particular reference to internet gambling, saying that this in itself required a new approach accompanied by new forms of prevention programmes and support services.
“Caritas is already doing much in the field of gambling and my hope today is that the training being given is just a beginning and will be followed up with more initiatives that will hone skills further, to continue to provide a vital life-line to these people, including innocent bystanders,” she said.
Foundation for Social Welfare Services CEO Joe Gerada said easy access to gambling halls and real time gambling through various new schemes was a new threat to young people.
“These gambling schemes were a means of reinforcing the popular culture of getting a quick fix for one's difficulties”, said Gerada, “but they misled young people into believing that gambling improved one's life's fortunes”. “These were downright lies and unethical advertising practices”, he said.
He called for strong regulation regarding young people's access to gambling halls, a ban on advertising targeting young people and for the gambling industry to pay for services needed to educate the young against the menace and to fund treatment services to those addicted to gambling. Gerada said the training seminar formed part of Sedqa's strategy to focus on issues that endangered the health and well-being of teenagers.
Latest trends showed that gambling via the Internet has made the practice more accessible than ever. Today, thousands of websites offer the opportunity of remote gambling, with the ease of setting up a gambling account and engaging in a variety of forms of gambling, from traditional betting, to casino gambling, bingo and lotteries.
Gambling has been known to affect a very wide range of participants, regardless of social status, age or gender. Problems resulting from gambling addiction include financial difficulties, fear and tension in case of usury problems, social and psychological problems and problems at the workplace, all of which could also affect members of the family and other relatives.
Sedqa's Gambling Addiction Service provides addiction counselling and support to individuals and their families experiencing problems as a result of gambling. The agency offers a wide range of services, including crisis intervention and planning one's finances, employment and housing arrangements.