Maltese gaming companies accused of targeting millions of African youths

African charities in appeal to Malta’s remote gaming companies to stop destroying futures by unscrupulously infiltrating and exploiting youths’ lives. The host of online gaming companies based in Malta for tax breaks and sunny climes brings with it highly-remunerated employment, a gross domestic product boost and tax revenue from around one-tenth of the global multi-billion-euro industry that has made the islands its home.

But every silver lining has its cloud and the devastation Malta’s remote gaming companies are said to be wreaking on millions of poverty-stricken East African youths is being brought into sharp focus.

“Online gambling orchestrated by companies in Malta is actively targeting Africa and creating the conditions that will lock millions into a lifetime of poverty. We passionately believe that our children are not ‘prospects’ for the online gambling industry to profit from.”

– according to the Young Africans Fighting Online Gambling organisation.

This is the first of a series of articles exploring the ramifications of the exportation of remote gambling from Malta to East and sub-Saharan Africa in which The Shift will be exposing the insidious trade.

That trade is earning betting companies millions of euros while millions of African youths are, as a consequence, seeing their futures consigned to lifetimes of poverty and vice.

Charities speaking with The Shift say African youths are being mercilessly targeted and groomed by Maltese gaming companies through advertising, infiltration into schools and charities and even through the donations of computers that can be used to feed the vice.

Likening the scourge to “a massive humanitarian crisis impacting millions,” Graham House of the Hope With Africa NGO explained to The Shift how certain charities are being run by “exactly the same people who actively target and groom the very same kids into online gambling.

“Those they say they want to help are in actual fact those they will eventually kill. The death and destruction here because of this industry is in the millions.”

According to the Young Africans Fighting Online Gambling organisation, millions of youths in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Angola – and indeed the whole of Africa – are being actively and unscrupulously targeted by Malta’s online gambling industry.

Almost all of this, however, is happening under the regular Maltese citizen’s radar.

“Perhaps the good people of Malta are unaware of the harm that is being done in their name? This is evil on your part that has a high impact here in Africa.” – YAFOG asks.

The organisation says its research has shown how young people are being targeted and groomed into addiction: “Your [Malta’s] online gambling industry is a predatory industry, and you prey on, and profit from, our most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable countries for commercial gain.

“You do this because nearly 70% of the profit in your industry is gained from those who are addicted to the online gambling that you market so heavily and have infiltrated our schools with. Poverty for us seems to be the intention of the people in Malta who profit from our loss, which is why we are targeted.”

Meanwhile, Malta’s public coffers make millions of euros in tax revenue from the roughly €2 billion in annual turnover the local industry sees yearly.

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.

That success, however, comes at a price that is now being exported to Africa and to millions of its poverty-stricken, underprivileged youths who are falling into the vicious circle of gambling, debt, poverty, crime and a host of other related societal problems.

That boom is being fed by faster internet and cheaper phones, but there is a real fear that children are being increasingly sucked into the cycle.

One government minister called the phenomenon “a curse on youth” in Kenya. Young Africans Fighting Online Gambling has produced a short clip showing the problems the online gaming sector is creating in Kenya alone. Examples from other African countries can be seen on its website, Facebook, and Instagram pages.

Mounting evidence from studies suggests that youth in sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly drawn to online gambling-related activities, leading to dire consequences for millions of youths.

“I became aware of the threat to our economic and security wellbeing while we are being targeted by the online gambling industry operating in your country, seemingly with the support of the people of Malta,”

– according to 31-year-old Joseph from YAFOG in an open letter to the people of Malta.

“I have seen the rapid expansion of the online gambling industry spread like wildfire and infiltrate the youth of my country and across Africa as a whole. The impact of being targeted by the online gambling industry operating offshore from Malta is destroying Africa.”

Graham House from Hope with Africa says it has written to Maltese Foreign Minister Ian Borg to highlight the growing phenomenon, but there has been no answer so far.

“What our NGO wants,” says House, “is for meaningful conversations with the people of Malta and about 50 million young Africans, using our NGO as a mediator.”

YAFOG echoes the sentiment: “We urgently seek meaningful conversation with your people to help you understand the evil being done, in your good name, by a few in Malta who are killing millions of our young Africans.”


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