The desire to stamp out illegal gambling in Portugal seems to have taken a bizarre turn. A group of 28 British and Irish tourists were arrested by Portuguese police for being in a bar where a game of bingo was taking place.
Under Portuguese law any gambling, even bingo, needs to have an appropriate licence. The first game of bingo had concluded when the police swooped on the bar, arresting those present, regardless of whether or not they were actually participating in the game.
The owner of the Yorkshire Tavern is Marianne Pittaway:
“It is crazy, an absolute joke. We were playing bingo for biscuits, chocolate and some alcoholic drinks. There was no money exchanged apart from paying for the ticket. The money we make pays for prizes.
Everyone in the bar who was playing bingo was handed a 300 Euro fine plus a three-month suspended sentence. Those who were in the bar but not playing were given a 150 Euro fine plus a three-month suspended sentence. I was given a €700 fine and a four-month suspended sentence and [partner] António was given a 500 Euro fine and a four-month suspended sentence.”
The incident has the potential to be a public relations disaster for the Portuguese tourist industry. While it is reasonable of course for the Portuguese to enforce their laws it is perhaps counter-productive of them to target holiday-makers for such a minor infraction, especially as these are the same tourists who are bringing much needed finance into the local economy.
Portugal is in receipt of 78 Billion Euro EU/IMF/ECB loans following the collapse of its property market. Unemployment in Portugal in the first quarter of 2013 was 17.7%, as reported by the Instituto Nacional de Estatistica.
Scaring tourists away is hardly going to help that number.