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MALTATODAY 21 November 2021

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maltatoday | SUNDAY • 21 NOVEMBER 2021 COMMENT What are we skinning? The striptease-happy 'comedy' duo gracing this year's edition of the SiGMA gambling conference at MFCC, Ta' Qali. Why are we skinning it? Because it is a handy illustration of the true face of an industry that we're all forced to suck up to day in and day out because it's good for 'the economy', and frankly it just feels good to get handed a dose of truth that cuts through buzzwords for once. All the more so when this all happened at the 'Lucky Streak' stall of the conference in question. It's a common enough adage that people tell you who they are if you listen carefully. Turns out we were tuning out quite a bit of information heading our way from that particular group. Okay, I've had a proper look at the video. And what do you make of it? Honestly? It's more sad than anything else. Yes. It scans like an unimaginative and poorly budgeted version of 'Wolf of Wall Street' style decadence. It seems as though we cannot even attract adequately decadent business-ghouls to Malta either. Nope. We always seem to half-ass it. Pun not intended. But did the erstwhile powers that be condone what happened? Oh, not at all! Pearl-clutching indignation all around, from both local and international stakeholders… along with a 'lifetime' ban for our not-so- Lucky Streak-ers. Wait, they're trying to behave like moral arbiters, and not even as joke? Isn't this the gambling industry? Gaming. They call it gaming. They can call it what they like, but doesn't it essentially remain a large-scale gambling operation that just so happens to have latched onto Malta like a parasite? Yes, and Malta is happy to allow itself to be leeched as long as some of the residual juices leech off into the mouths and pockets of the island's elite classes. Gross. Yes but you know what's really gross? What? IMPUNITY. Cringe. How do you mean, though? Another SiGMA-affiliated event – Akon's '500 champagne bottles' party – was broken up by the police for not adhering to COVID regulations. But surely that is an example of adequately applied PUNITIVE measures? But the simple fact that they thought they could get away with it speaks volumes. But the industry is crucial to Malta's economy. A supposedly Catholic country choosing to boost its coffers through organised gambling makes a lot of sense, yes. Hey, abortion is still illegal. Yes, there's that. If enough women and gambling addicts suffer under the country's status quo, we may just continue to appease whichever demon is keeping it all afloat. Do say: "While the swift action taken by the SiGMA powers that be is certainly commendable – trumping even the political class's sluggishness in similar scenarios – the fact remains that what happened at the conference this week will likely simply serve as illustration of the inherent nature of the gambling industry as a whole, and should lead us to question the wisdom of relying on it to keep our economy afloat." Don't say: "What happened at SiGMA this week was an utter disgrace. Everyone knows that upstanding gambling moguls are to enjoy far better quality strippers in the (relative) privacy of a plush strip club that can offer the kind of world-class experience these magnanimous and economy-boosting baronets of industry certainly deserve." Zero empathy games Andrew Bonello & Fabian Steinmetz PG 13 The Skinny Malta, shrunk down JOSANNE CASSAR Social media gives callous people a wider audience PAGE 6 MICHAEL FALZON A very peculiar 'amnesty' PAGE 7 No 114 – Stripping for SiGMA SAVIOUR BALZAN Two decades and counting, we still chase the story PAGE 5 EDITORIAL Violent words lead to violent crimes PAGE 2 Calls for a zero-tolerance policy perpetuates a culture of stigma and discrimination created by prohibition and years of criminalising cannabis consumers

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