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The Communist's Stance on Gambling

Chance and risk have by no means been eliminated from the fortunes of men in Communist society - as the careers of the current leaders in the Soviet bloc attest.

But while hazarding all on a shrewd or lucky estimate is apparently an acceptable feature of political life under Communism, as an economic method it is generally looked down upon.

In fact, financial 'speculation,' whose grossest expression is gambling and is considered by Communist doctrine to be the root and branch of capitalist instability and injustice, and is accorded no place in the rational and just society in which the only permissible source of income is work.

Organized gambling, in the form of State lotteries as well as sports pools, racetrack betting, etc., functioned freely and legally in most European countries before the war.

The two basic forms of legal gambling in the Soviet bloc are the state lottery and the sports - mainly soccer- pools (betting on the results of team matches).

In addition, there are 'numbers games' which, where they exist, are evidently the most popular of the offerings.

In Hungary, this game called Lotto was organized by the Kadar regime early in 1957, just after the Revolt. The method consists of a public drawing of five numbers from one to 90, the winners being those who have previously picked at least two of the numbers drawn.

Similar to this is the Polish Toto-Lotek, which requires picking six numbers from some 99 printed on a ticket. Toto-Lotek is run by a State gambling syndicate called Totalizator Sportowy, which was set up by a December 1995 government decree, originally to conduct the soccer pools.

Today, there are branches of the syndicate in almost every Polish provincial district, separate from the State Lottery Monopoly, but all of course under State control.

Organizations, institutions and commercial enterprises also run small lotteries. These require a permit from the State.

Typical are the Book Lotteries which provide substantial prizes and claim that 'every ticket wins,' because those which are not drawn can be redeemed at face value for books at the State store.

The State lotteries and the soccer pools function more or less according to the standard European models. There are some forms, however, which, if they cannot be called precisely 'Socialist,' are a departure from normal capitalist practice.

The betting introduced by the Communist regimes caught on like fire in dry hay and is now a virtual rage in Eastern Europe.

When the first Communist-sponsored sports pool got under way in Czechoslovakia in 1956, the press reported that it had once become 'the popular pastime of hundreds of thousands of citizens.'