MKs Slam State Lotto as ‘Addictive, Preying on the Poor’

YERUSHALAYIM -
Lotto. Photo by Abir Sultan/Flash90.
Lottery tickets. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Many poor people in Israel are “hooked” on playing lottery, and the state – in the form of Mifal Hapayis, the state-licensed provider of games of chance – is a major contributor to the problem, MKs said during a special day dedicated to discussing the effects of gambling on society.

On the target of MKs on the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee, which held a special session about the problem, was a representative of Mifal Hapayis. “Because of you, hundreds of thousands of people remain poor,” MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) told a Mifal Hapayis official testifying before the Committee. “The money you allocated to help wean people from a gambling addiction is a joke. Even a box of cigarettes has a warning about how addictive a product is, but you run an extensive marketing campaign that gives no indication of this about your product.”

Alalouf cited statistics that showed a sharp rise in Mifal Hapayis sales – of rub-off ticket products, Lotto forms, and other games of chance – on the 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, or 1st of the month, the days that transfer payments are made by the National Insurance Institute, which poor Israelis often rely on as a mainstay of their income. “The money you make from slot machines and other electronic devices alone in 2015 was over NIS 573 million, and that is just one of your smaller income streams,” Alalouf told Mifal Hapayis representatives at the meeting.

MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Camp) said that while closing down Mifal Hapayis was unnecessary, it should be reined in. “It is a very influential organization that employs lobbyists to influence government policy,” said Cabel. “The time has come to sit down and figure out what the goals of this organization are. I personally know good families who were caused untold suffering because their breadwinner got hooked on rub-off games.”

In response, Dafna Naim-Shaul, deputy director of marketing for Mifal Hapayis, said that the organization “follows the instructions of the Finance Ministry. Addiction rates are actually very low, constituting less than 2 percent of adults. These things have to be taken in proportion. Removing slot machines from the mix will not solve anything, since there are plenty of illegal substitutes run by organized crime,” she added.

Money generated by Mifal Hapayis is used to pay out prices, cover administrative costs, and build schools and community centers around the country.