Sunday March 17,2013 : CASINO ADVERTISING BAN REJECTED BY MALTA JUDGE
Laws banning adverts promoting casinos violate the right to freedom of expression, judge finds.
Malta lawmakers have a problem this week following a ruling Friday by local judge Mr Justice Gino Camilleri that the law banning advertisements promoting casinos violates the right to freedom of expression, and the relevant provisions in the Malta Gaming Act are consequently null and void.
Justice Camilleri issued his finding at the conclusion of a case brought before his court as a constitutional application by Laurence Grech, a former editor of The Sunday Times. The application cited a number of government officials, including the Attorney General, the Police Commissioner, the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister of Malta.
Grech submitted that action taken against him in 2003 after an advertorial featuring the Oracle Casino was published in the Sunday Times newspaper had violated the constitution of the Mediterranean island.
The Times of Malta reports that Grech argued that the publication in question was not an advertisement but a short article in the social pages about a promotion by Go Mobile that offered the casino’s customers the opportunity of winning 30 mobile phones.
The article was published free of charge.
Grech pointed out that other publications, such as Malta This Month, an in-flight magazine, regularly carried adverts promoting local casinos, and he argued that his fundamental human rights to freedom of expression and freedom against discrimination had been violated by his arraignment on criminal charges.
Justice Camilleri declared that Grech had correctly submitted that the prohibition in terms of law violated his right to freedom of expression because he had faced criminal charges for having informed the public that it was possible in Malta to legally gamble in local casinos.
The law, Grech's submission had noted, did not ban adverts in the case of casinos located in places frequented by tourists.
"The court added that the State had licensed casinos to operate in Malta," The Times of Malta reports. "These were accessible to the Maltese public. Thus, the ban on casino advertising was a cosmetic gesture because such advertising for casinos used primarily by tourists and on the Internet was allowed. Maltese nationals could easily have access to the advertising directed at tourists, as happened in the airport."
The restriction on freedom of expression was therefore not justifiable, the court noted, adding that no such ban existed on other forms of gambling such as Super 5, U Bet and bingo offerings on the island.
Grech also claimed that he had been the subject of discriminatory enforcement because other publications had not been prosecuted for carrying similar articles; the judge found that he had not adduced evidence of such publications.