In an unusually swift procedure, Parliament banned slot machines with immediate effect, except for those in casinos. Commentators both on the right and the left agree that it was the right decision, although the price is high: the loss of tens of billions in gambling revenues and tens of thousands of jobs.
After a hastily convened cabinet meeting on Monday, the government proposed the banning of slot machines operating outside the three authorized casinos. The bill was accepted the following day by Parliament. A year ago, 23 thousand slot machines were in use throughout the country, and most pubs had one or two. Last autumn, the tax on them was drastically increased and by now, only about 6 thousand are still in operation. These too will now be removed, with the lone exception of those operating in a few casinos. According to the government, the ban serves to help poor families and make sure they will not spend their little money on gambling. In addition, the government also hinted that the slot machines were operated by networks with close ties to the mafia, and thus this business posed national security related threats.
In Magyar Nemzet, Matild Torkos points out that. Considering the wider implications, Torkos contends that the ban is reasonable even if the ten thousand people working in the sector lose their jobs and the budget loses the revenues from gambling.
The decision shows that the government can use its two-thirds majority in the House wisely, Balázs Pintér remarks in Magyar Hírlap. Although liberals like to criticize any curtailment of individual freedom, Pintér believes that such decisive steps are necessary in order to make sure that defenceless, poverty-stricken Hungarians cannot be lured into gambling, and that scoundrels cannot make money out of their misfortune.
“”, Népszabadság welcomes the decision in a front page editorial. The left-wing daily, however, also adds that in addition to the prohibition, the government should do more to eliminate the cause of gambling and help the poor to overcome poverty and hopelessness. As for the unusually swift decision-making process, Népszabadság finds it extremely disheartening that the government had to act so fast, to ensure that lobby groups would not exert pressure on MPs against the bill.