The number of visits by Maltese citizens to village gambling parlours has increased steadily over the past four years, while the number of visits by foreign nationals has more than tripled over the same period.
Visitor figures were presented by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna in response to a parliamentary question by Opposition MP Hermann Schiavone.
The total number of visits to gambling parlours almost doubled between 2016 and 2019, from 432,177 to 799,420 visits.
While the increase in the number of Maltese visitors was considerable during the period – from 338,635 to 460,852 – the number of visits by foreign nationals rose dramatically, from just 93,542 to 338,568.
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Slight increase in visits to casinos
The figures supplied by Scicluna show that the number of visits to Maltese casinos also increased over the same period, albeit slightly, with the increase entirely attributable to foreign nationals.
Casinos welcomed 904,412 visitors in 2016, with the number reaching 940,766 last year. But the number of Maltese visitors is on a slight downward trend: casinos received 426,756 visits from Maltese nationals in 2016, with the number falling to 410,671 last year.
But the number of visits by foreign nationals increased every year, from 477,656 in 2016 to a peak of 530,096 last year.
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Gambling’s importance to local economy on the rise
Schiavone also asked Scicluna a related question on the economic impact of gambling – a sector which also includes burgeoning online gambling activity – with the minister revealing that its importance has been increasing.
The sector’s gross value added output rose from €1.27 billion in 2017 to €1.56 billion last year.
The number of people employed by the sector also increased correspondingly, from 6,673 in 2017 to 7,417 full-time equivalent positions two years later. Maltese nationals only account for a minority of these employees, though their number correspondingly increased from 2,088 to 2,794.