OPINION

Unlimited gamble

One of the first political initiatives of Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou when he came to power in 1963 was to ban pinball machines, which at those times were mechanically operated, pleasant-sounding and, often enough, the first contact that young people had with a phantasmagorical technological achievement. The measure did not, it goes without saying, make youth stay at home. Indeed, young people continued to frequent the various nightclubs of the mid-1960s, perfecting their skills in other games such as pool, and betting in coffee shops and gambling dens. The young men of yesteryear are now middle-aged men who were surprised to hear the government’s firm decision on Thursday to ban all electronic games, prompted by the failure of the responsible authorities to stop the conversion of electronic games into illegal gambling machines. It is to be hoped that the prime minister’s noble aim will be fulfilled. The fact, of course, that the State has used all means to promote easy profit-making and all sorts of gambling has obviously escaped the attention of the prime minister and of the members of his Cabinet. On top of the two national lotteries of the post-war period came the soccer pools and then a string of inventions aiming to attract fortune seekers. Even Greece’s stock market, which would supposedly propel local enterprises and the national economy into the new period, was for a long period treated by the political elite as if it were an Albanian financial pyramid scheme. In a sense, it did not escape the fate of the latter, either. Greece has turned into a land of opportunity and gambling or, at least, that is how it is viewed by a considerable section of the citizenry, who, on a daily basis, are overwhelmed by advertisements on how to make easy money and who are encouraged to mortgage their future in order to purchase capital goods – and not only. Banning illegal gambling – even with the recent hyperbole – was the right decision. But the most important thing is to change the mentality that led a young man to waste 8 million drachmas on the notorious slot machines, as his parents recently confessed on television.