I thank you for coming here today, to officially recognise the opening of the Limassol Treatment Centre and to participate in the events of today.
As you may know the Commission regulates land-based casino gambling in the Republic of Cyprus. The Casino Law came into force on July 21st, 2015, the Commission was established in 2017and commenced in January 2018.
We believe that the symbol of the lighthouse that is used to represents this Centre as providing a guiding light for those in troubled seas, to assist in reaching settled waters. We acknowledge gambling as a legitimate leisure activity that brings pleasure to very many who are in control of their gambling, but also recognise that for some this is not always the case. It is to these people that the centre offers a guiding light.
Central to our work as the regulator of casino gaming in Cyprus is a responsibility to reduce the potentially negative effects of gaming by implementing appropriate protective measures, particularly to protect vulnerable groups and young people. Our approach is focused upon establishing links with and working with others who can make a contribute to this objective.
The Commission’s Responsible Gaming Plan focuses us upon actions to prevent the potentially harmful effects of gambling and includes supervision of the management of the casinos; providing information to citizens to make informed choices, and to develop the provision of counselling and treatment facilities for those whose gambling has become problematic, not only for themselves but sometimes for those closest to them. It is for these people that the Limassol Treatment Centre and the Helpline 1422 has been established and we come here today to acknowledge those who have supported the development of the Centre.
We recognise the counselling and treatment are specialised skills that we cannot directly provide, and as such we have engaged with other professionals in this field have realised that by working together, focused upon a common objectives, we can make a greater difference to people’s lives than we could by working alone.
The Centre is an important step in ensuring that citizens have the information to make informed choices about their gambling and also have access to support offered by others, who by experience and professional training can assist those seeking help to make positive choices.
We think that having local facilities for local people improves access, but this means that both local and national organisations have to work together, that standards should be national, and that investment has to be made not only in the physical locations but in the development of the professional capabilities of people providing the support.
Following the initial launch of the 1422 helpline in 2020, the services of the Limassol Centre started in March 2021 as you may have seen in a press release in that month. Much hard work has been undertaken through the difficult days of 2020 and 2021 and I think it is appropriate to recognise the support of;
- the Municipality of Agios Athanasios
- the Cyprus National Addictions Authority,
- The Nicosia development Agency, and
- the casino operator in supporting the helpline
Today marks an important first step, there is more to be done. In the coming year we wish to strengthen the capacity of the centre and more widely promote the 1422 helpline.
We would like to explore the possibility of other municipalities establishing local facilities, and also see the need to continue our engagement with government departments and agencies and NGOS’ across a range of areas, for example the National Betting Authority to ensure that we are effectively coordinated, the Ministry of Health because of the wider impacts that the gambling problems can create, the Ministry of Education to maximise opportunities to promote informed decision making by our young people about their life choices, with Academia so we can better understand the nature of problem gambling, and to those who represent higher risk groups.
In closing, I again thank all those involved in reaching this milestone, yourselves for attending and want to assure you of the Commission’s continuing commitment to our mission of addressing the potential harms that gambling can create.