The Labor, Welfare and Health Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee held a joint meeting on Tuesday to discuss the placement of Mifal HaPayis slot machines in area where the weaker segments of the population reside. Mifal HaPayis is Israel`s national lottery.
Speaking to a representative of Mifal HaPayis, Labor Committee Chairman MK Elie Elalouf (Kulanu) said ”You have caused hundreds of thousands of families to fall into poverty. The money you transfer for the treatment of gambling addictions is a joke. Your income from the slot machines alone amounts to NIS 573 million a year. The revenue goes up particularly on the 28th of each month, when poor people receive their stipends from the National Insurance Institute.”
MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Camp), head of the Economic Affairs Committee, said that while he does not believe Mifal HaPayis should be closed, ”we need to examine what the purpose of this entity is.”
”I personally know good families that were completely destroyed because of Hish Gad (scratchcard games),” he said.
(Mifal HaPayis stand in Jerusalem. Archive photo: GFDL)
Mifal HaPayis` Regulation Director Merav Bernfeld, who is also in charge of its connections with the government, said the body allocates some NIS 3 million towards gambling addiction rehabilitation programs. In response, Cabel said, ”This is a drop in the ocean compared with the catastrophe.”
MK Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) said ”mayors do not move without the funds transferred to them by Mifal HaPayis. Nothing will change until the Finance Minister will pledge to transfer to the municipalities hundreds of millions of shekels, instead of Mifal HaPayis.” Elalouf said in response: ”Do you know how many billions of shekels remain in Mifal HaPayis` coffers, even though they have supposedly been distributed?”
MK Roy Folkman (Kulanu) suggested that a fixed amount of revenue generated by Mifal HaPayis be earmarked for supporting local authorities and institutions. ”The slot machines must be removed immediately,” he added.
Dafna Naim Shaul, Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Advertising at Mifal HaPayis, said: ”We are operating in accordance with the Finance Ministry`s guidelines. The addiction problem is moderate; a mere two percent of those who play [are addicted]. Even if we do remove the slot machines, the problem will not be solved because there is an illegal market.”
MK Elalouf concluded the meeting by saying that the committees support Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon`s position and demand the removal of all of Mifal HaPayis` slot machines.