A Belgian Eye – Episode 102

Our resident Belgian Philippe Persoons takes a look at life through A Belgian Eye.

Is playing the national lottery considered as gambling?

Let me talk you about a small headline in Belgian news: Belgians spending less on lottery tickets.

A turnover of 1.173 billion euro in 2015. This is down from a turnover of 1.211 billion euro in 2014. A small decrease, nevertheless, the Lotto will still be able to pay its shareholder a dividend. And the shareholder of this ‘gambling company’ happens to be the Belgian state: you and me.

To be honest, this decrease in their business seems good news. I mean, I don’t like companies doing bad business, but to me gambling is a bad business and so if a gambling company is doing bad business, it sounds as a good business to me.

Why do I have something against gambling? Isn’t it fun?

No it is not, it’s a waste of money and for some it’s is giving in to one’s addiction. It’s not healthy at all. For some it can endanger their health, causing social and psychological problems and even death.

But, … it’s the national lottery for God’s sake. They give money back to the country and to charity.

Yes of course it was money you took from the people, you stole from the people, giving nothing or almost nothing in return!

We need a National Lottery Institution, if not people would be pushed to other commercial gambling companies, that operate much more aggressive on the market and this would increase the number gambling addicts.

Sorry my friends, excuse me for my words, but this is total bullshit, the biggest nonsense I ever heard. Change the word ‘lottery’ by cigarettes, and you’ll understand what I mean.

Can you imagine a government selling cigarettes, making publicity for this? Arguing that the benefits go back the country, that some are donated to charity, to the cancer foundation. That you need to sell cigarettes, if not people would smoke cigarettes from more aggressive providers, which would increase smoking. So by selling government cigarettes we will control the smoking problem.

Can you believe what I just said? I’m afraid this explanation is quite hard to believe. First of all, in 2011 we opened the doors of our Belgian gambling business to commercial players, both Belgian and foreign, you know one of those European requirements. We have installed a commission that has to control the business. But, they don’t have any tools to do so. For instance: A player should be 18 or older, which one could verify by means of the electronic ID-card, mandatory in Belgium, but that measure was deleted in the draft law.

So, if you let commercial gambling business be a booming business, don’t come telling that adding a government gambling company is meant to diminish anything.

It surprises me and I think it’s regrettable that so little is said about this issue. Just google on gambling problems, addictions, compulsive gambling and stuff like that and you’ll see that there is a hidden world of pain and misery out there.

Just like for cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, I don’t think any prohibition will help, but I do think that diminishing the offer, the availability might be a good start.

Let’s toast on that and …

Have a nice day.