The Wall Street Crash of 24 October 1929 heralded the beginning of the great depression of the 1930s. The Belgian colony needed funds for its development. In order to provide Congo with new income, the government set up the Colonial Lottery on 29 May 1934.
The first draw was held on 18 October 1934. From the outset, the revenue was mainly reserved for the colony, but a large number of Belgian associations with social or charitable aims could also rely on its support.
During the Second World War, the activities of the Colonial Lottery were suspended. The hardships of the most disadvantaged groups of the Belgian population saw an almost seamless transition to the Winter Aid Lottery. After the war, the pre-war activities resumed with a first draw on 17 May 1945, and the Winter Aid Lottery ceased.
Increasingly, there were calls to set aside a larger proportion of the net proceeds to meet emergency needs in Belgium. After the floods of 1 February 1953, for example, half the proceeds of the special Easter draw of 1953 were allocated to the Red Cross.
The independence of Congo on 30 June 1960 removed the raison d’être of the Colonial Lottery. After a brief interlude as the African Lottery, at the end of 1962, the National Lottery came into being. Henceforth, it would be part of the Finance Ministry. The proceeds went to aid rural populations in developing countries and to institutions working for the public good in Belgium. In February 1965, the National Lottery became autonomous within the Ministry of Finance, but did not yet have its own legal personality.
The severe flooding in Ruisbroek on 2 January 1976 and the damage gave rise to an Act which allowed the National Lottery scope to launch new products and use a proportion of the proceeds for good causes. On 4 February 1978, the first Lotto draw was held. It was a huge success. The National Lottery expanded into a large company. In 1981, the number of employees had quadrupled in barely twenty years. Soon, new products were launched, such as Presto (1983) and Subito (1987). The successful Lotto formula was expanded to include Joker in September 1985. Due to a decline in its success, sales of the classic lottery ticket came to an end in 1994. Not only was the range of lottery games experiencing steady growth, but the number of beneficiaries receiving National Lottery funding in the form of subsidies or sponsorship rose sharply. Successive royal decrees between 1979 and 1991 broadened the concept of good causes to include engaging in sports, nature and environmental conservation and scientific research. A broad range of associations in the fields of sports and culture, film, literature etc. were able to count on lottery funding.
The Act of 22 July 1991 gave the National Lottery a legal personality, under the oversight of the Finance Minister. Henceforth, within the legal framework, different forms of competitions, contests and games of chance were allowed. In 1992, the sales network was automated. Since the points of sale were connected to the central computer, players could validate their play slip up to a few minutes before the draw.
The 1990s were synonymous with steady growth. New draws and scratch card games were introduced apace: Bingo-Vision, Tele-Kwinto, Trix, Eldorado, Win for Life, ... Some of them were linked to a TV programme. Others, like Win for Life, are still a big success today. From 1999 onward, the growth stalled somewhat, partly due to the disappearance of quite a large number of points of sale.
In 1991, the Culture Department was founded, and is responsible for the acquisition and recording of objects relating to games of chance through the centuries. Today, the National Lottery has a collection of tens of thousands of objects including its own products (posters, tickets, advertising, etc.) and all sorts of objets d’art (sculptures, paintings, tapestries, etc.).
Despite the growth of the National Lottery, it remained a nationalised company with limited dynamism. The Act of 19 April 2002 brought about radical changes in its structure. The transition to a public law limited company would turn the institution into a dynamic, modern company. The provision of socially-responsible gaming was its core business. The links between the National Lottery and the points of sale were overhauled. The funding of all sorts of bodies with a social purpose or working for the public good remained a core activity.
After 2002, new draw and scratch card games were launched in rapid succession, such as Fun for Life, Kop & Munt and Shoot Goal. By far the most important development was the participation from 2004 onward in Euro Millions, an inter-European joint venture between lotteries. The prospect of huge wins makes this game extremely popular. In recent years, the product range grew again, with new scratch card games such as Casino Prestige, Passport, Pacman. On the other hand, there was a keen awareness about the risks of gambling addiction. In 2006, an active campaign was run about responsible gaming, which has since been repeated at regular intervals. In 2010, European Lotteries awarded the National Lottery ‘Responsible Gaming’ certification.
In 2007, Ivan Pittevils was appointed Managing Director. He made the modernisation of the National Lottery and its products a priority. Since 2010, the classic draw games of the National Lottery have also been available online via the website www.e-lotto.be. In 2011, a substantial number of classic draws and scratch card games were updated, such as Joker +, Win for Life and Euro Millions. The Lotto will also undergo a complete face-lift in the autumn of 2011.