Playing with games of chance

One of the first decisions taken by the government of Georgios Papandreou when it took over from the conservatives in the 1960s — much to the delight of many ?democrats? in the country — was to abolish the use of ?drachma-guzzling? pinball games — much to the chagrin of the young people back then, who are today the middle-aged generation.

It appears that a nephew of one of the Center Union party?s MPs was spending all of his allowance on the arcade game. His mother expressed her annoyance to the deputy, who had just been appointed minister, and he convinced Papandreou to do the virtuous thing by abolishing those noisy, yet fantastic, games. For anyone who remembers this incident, the time of finding amusement in mechanical and electronic games is probably long gone by now. Computers are now a fixture in most Greek homes and Internet cafes are everywhere, ready to provide entertainment opportunities at a fraction of the cost.

This incident would be but a mere amusing footnote in history if it were not for the fact the grandson of George Papandreou were not pushing for a law to bring back slot machines — the ultimate outlet for low-income gamblers — against reactions within his PASOK party. It is interesting that the relevant draft law was twice approved by the Cabinet and then rejected by PASOK MPs for being ?immoral,? showing that most of the party?s deputies see the government as an ineffective body whose decisions mean nothing.

There is no doubt that the Papandreou family has been visionary but also contradictory. Georgios Papandreou brought down the monarchy, even though he swept to power in 1964 because King Pavlos allowed him to form a minority government with the right to disband Parliament. Andreas Papandreou broke every convention in the country?s political life and now his son, George, is deconstructing, with much pain or pleasure, everything his father created. Now, he has also overcome the ?moral? quandaries that led his grandfather to outlaw the flipper machines and his predecessor Costas Simitis to abolish slot machines.

The issue is not why slot machines were outlawed. The issue is why they were brought back, and that is obviously because Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou cannot deliver the revenues he has signed up to. Hopefully, this will be the last such attempt before the government starts looking for ways to generate revenue from sources that are not as morally questionable as games of chance.

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