corner tables have become mini gambing kiosks..
The prospect of new legislation placing restrictions
on Armenia's various lottery games has increased
the popularity of the games throughout Yerevan,
as lottery promoters try to capitalize on the
gambling craze before facing tighter limits on
On November 7, the National Assembly of Armenia
passed on first reading a new law that would increase
by four times the amount of tax (from 25 million
drams annually - about $46,000 to 100 million,
about $184,000) lottery promoters would be required
to pay. Further, the new law would cut down the
amount of time given to lottery ads on television,
from 10 minutes per hour to 90 seconds.
The effect of the first-read approval is that
Yerevan street corners have become mini-gambling
booths, as lotto fever has intensified in anticipation
of making profits while more liberal legislation
is still in place.
The victorious parade of lotteries has become
an ordinary phenomenon in the streets of central
Yerevan. Many cars tied up in red ribbons and
placed on specially constructed platforms are
being advertised on TV. For instance Bari Akntart
(Kind Moment) TV lottery raffles 40 cars and Bari
Domino (Kind Domino) is tempting punters with
54 over a two month period.
The scenes in the streets are repeated on television,
with a barrage of almost-continuous commercials
tempting takers to spend an little and win a lot.
"Whatever channel you turn all you hear
is expressions like 'gone-gone' or 'you're the
next lucky one'. And the Shahogh Loto (Winning
Lotto) is simply something insane. When those
commercials start I turn off the sound of the
TV," complains 45 year old Susanna Harutyunyan.
The gambling bug bites particularly strong near
the places were cars are on display - mostly late-model
Ladas, valued at about $7,000. There, lines form
of eager players ready to lay down 300 drams,
about 75 cents, for a chance to drive home a new
drams for a Niva? What a deal!.
Lottery players eagerly scratch at numbers, using
10-dram metal coins to swipe away the cover holding
what they hope will be a prize-winning number.
Yura Arushanyan from Abovyan is diligently checking
the tickets that he's just bought. His 10 year
old son Armen and his wife Mariam are carefully
watching him. He is so concentrated that he even
refuses to talk while he is "scratching".
"Each day I buy 10 lottery tickets. I believe
that some day I'll be lucky, otherwise I won't
buy, even though I've never won, only a 1000 drams
at most," says Yura.
His optimism was interrupted by an old lady who
said angrily: "I bought so many lottery tickets.
Where is their 'you're the next lucky one'? It
is all a lie. All of them are cheating."
Deputy Artak Arakelyan is among MPs who are concerned
about the lottery's effect on the citizenry.
"They interrupt programs on TV to show those
meaningless commercials," Arakelyan says.
"They use children in them, which is against
the law. They show half naked girls sitting on
cars they raffle and offer to win. All of that
has serious impact on people's mental state."
According to Arakelyan it is likely that the
Assembly will take a stronger initiative and reduce
even more the advertising time approved in the
new law's first reading. Even 12 minutes a day
(the amount allowed by the new law) is too much
commercial time, some deputies say.
"People get excited with the commercials
and spend their last money on lotteries,"
Arakelyan says. "Take the pensioners who
buy those tickets and waste them. This is disease,
like drug addiction."
But Armen Grigoryan from Armavir is sure that
this TV lotteries fuss is typical of countries
in transition. "If in developed countries
people treat lotteries as games and don't spend
their last money on them, here it's vice versa.
They often give the last penny to win nothing."
The director of Entanekan Lotto (Family Lotto)
office Vardges Vardanyan treats the coming changes
"The competition field of lotteries will
be regulated and two or three big lotteries will
remain," he says.
However, the executive director of Bari Lotto
is not pleased with the state tax increase saying
that the situation for companies doing lotteries
will become more difficult. Instead, he agrees
with limited advertising.
According to the press office of the Ministry
of Finance and Economy there are nine organizations
that have a right to carry out lotteries and seven
out of them are TV lotteries.
Artak Arakelyan insists that the income from
lotteries and its formation mechanism have become
"They raffle the cheapest consumer goods
which are imported in Armenia and under the cover
of lotteries they show higher cost," he explains.
According to the existing law 50 percent of lottery
tickets should hold winners. While the cars are
the big prize, it is also possible to win TVs,
computers, ovens, cell phones, hairdryers . .
Twenty-eight year old Arsen Dykhanyan has been
selling lottery tickets for five years. At a small
table on the corner of Pushkin and Abovyan streets,
he stands there from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. The job,
he says, helps him take care of a family of eight,
as he makes 20 drams (less than two cents) on
each ticket he sells.
"Today I've sold 500 tickets and made 10,000
drams (about $18). I make 20 drams in one ticket,"
he says. And then he adds the mantra of lotto
"You're the next lucky one," he says.