ONCE

ONCE
   The National Organization for the Blind (Organization National de Ciegos Españoles) was set up in 1938 by Julio Osuna Fajardo and Javier Gutiérrez de Tovar, to provide employment for blind people as ticket-sellers for local lotteries. Some 90 percent of blind people in Spain (about 40,000 persons) belong to this organization, which since 1950 has provided a welfare system for its members. By the early 1980s, however, commitments began to exceed income, particularly since sales of lottery tickets were competing with the other opportunities for gambling provided by the state lottery, casinos and fruit-machines located in bars. In an attempt to reverse the loss of support, the organization, with government approval, replaced in 1984 the various provincial lotteries with a single national one. By the late 1980s, ticket-sellers were earning nearly twice the average national wage, and ONCE had become a powerful and wealthy force on the financial scene, investing in banks, supermarket chains, television and radio. By the early 1990s, ONCE's investment portfolio was worth 70,000m pesetas. It has a 25 percent stake in Tele 5, and owns Onda Cero, a network of about 160 radio stations. It publishes a high-quality glossy magazine, Perfiles.
   The expansion of ONCE into the investment marketplace has not been without controversy, particularly since it enjoys tax-free status on its profits, a privilege which it is able to transfer partially to any commercial concern in which it has a large stake. Government regulation since 1985 has brought it under ministerial control, but it continues to be a highly successful competitor to the national lottery, which is one of the state's main sources of revenue.
   Further reading
   - Hooper, J. (1995) "High Stakes", in J.Hooper The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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