Edition 1466
10 March 2018
Edition: 1466

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Bingo Backlash

by Carrie-Marie Bratley, in News · 27-06-2013 10:10:00 · 28 Comments

After grabbing global headlines at the start of this week, the arrest of 28 British and Irish citizens for playing bingo in a bar in Albufeira (Algarve) last week has split opinion. While many support the police for taking action to uphold Portugal’s strict gambling laws, others worry that – as most holidaymakers and even locals are completely oblivious to Portuguese gaming rules – the high-profile incident could deter potential visitors from coming to this country.

Bingo Backlash

Hefty fines and suspended jail terms were handed to all of the transgressors involved in last week’s gambling crack-down, most of whom were completely unaware they were committing a crime by playing ‘fun bingo’ in a bar.
Now concerns are that potential visitors to Portugal could be put off by the internationally-publicised incident through fear that they too could innocently end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“How are we supposed to know what licences bars are supposed to have? This could have very, very serious consequences for tourism and the Algarve”, warned an Irish holidaymaker who was caught up in last week’s swoop despite being a bystander.
The unsuspecting Dubliner, who owns a holiday home in Albufeira, was enjoying a pint while watching a televised game of rugby league as the game of bingo took place in the Yorkshire Tavern last Friday evening.
“I was just about to finish my pint and go home when about a dozen police officers came into the bar. I told them I hadn’t been playing but I was arrested anyway. I was taken to a police station and told to go to court on Monday for being a witness to illegal gambling. It was all quite shocking and rather embarrassing. Now I just feel like selling-up as soon as I can”, he said.
All 26 patrons plus the two bar owners, were bussed to Albufeira police station where they were formally identified, quizzed, made official suspects and instructed to appear in court at 9am on Monday (24 June) to face charges of exploitation of illegal gambling, illegal gambling and witnessing illegal gambling.
After a five-hour wait outside the court-house on Monday morning they were eventually seen and handed a range of sentences.
Non-participants were fined €150 and given a three-month suspended jail sentence. Participants were handed a €300 fine plus a three-month suspended sentence, and the owners of the bar, Marianne Pittaway and partner António Cardoso, were given a €700 and a €500 fine respectively plus four-month suspended sentences.
Monies from the fines are to be donated to a local charity believed to be the APEXA Support Association for Exceptional People in the Algarve.
In the wake of the bust, David Thomas, founder of the crime and safety advice association Safe Communities Algarve, held a meeting with the GNR, the British Vice Consulate and the Algarve Tourist Board to “clarify certain matters to ensure stricter compliance by bar owners in the future and create greater awareness for tourists.”
“Whereas the action taken was apparently in response to complaints and was strictly in compliance with the law, it does raise a number of legitimate issues especially concerning those who were not participating but were arrested”, he explained, adding: “Safe Communities Algarve feels that it is essential that more advice is given to tourists to avoid them inadvertently being drawn into this situation.”
Following the meeting there was “general agreement that there is a need for greater awareness for tourists on this point and we will all be doing our part,” David Thomas elaborated.
This week the former Assistant Commissioner of the Hong Kong police department and Interpol consultant spoke to ITV and the BBC, among other international media corporations, as one of various measures planned to get information on national gambling rules, to Portugal-bound Britons before they leave the UK.
“My advice to tourists would be avoid going into a bar where gambling is taking place”, he summarised.
Yet regardless of the concerns arising over the unawareness of Portugal’s gambling laws and the consequences that could have, Desidério Silva, head of the Algarve Tourist Board, is unwavering.
“The operation against clandestine gaming carried out by the GNR took place within normal parameters. Bingo falls under the category of games of ‘luck or chance’ and requires licencing, which the establishment in question did not have.
“We are therefore presented with a situation of exploration of illegal gambling, illegal gambling itself, and witnessing of illegal gambling, as per the accusations with which the owner, the players and the observers were charged. Given that, there are no doubts that the authorities acted in accordance to the law”, he told The Portugal News.
The regulation of Portuguese gambling laws falls under the remit of the Government’s tourism bureau, Turismo de Portugal.
As a rule, and with few exceptions, mainstream bars cannot host any form of gaming where money changes hands.
On its website, Turismo de Portugal clearly states: “The illicit exploration and practice of games of luck or chance is, and has long been, the object of police authorities’ permanent attention and action”
Ensuring revenue from legal gambling is channelled correctly to benefit the population “becomes impossible”, Turismo de Portugal says, when such activities are conducted “on the margins of the law; a situation in which only a few will benefit but surely, many more will be penalised.”
In this case, gambling was taking place “outside a legally authorised location”, a GNR statement sent to The Portugal News confirmed.
A GNR spokesperson further clarified that the force acted upon information provided by “anonymous citizens” as part of its ongoing mission to eradicate illegal gambling, and vowed more action will be taken in future.
Speaking to The Portugal News outside Albufeira court, bar owner Marianne Pittaway, 34, who has owned the Yorkshire Tavern for eight years, described last Friday’s police action as “ridiculous” and “heavy-handed.”
Pittaway explained she had been asking patrons for a nominal fee of €1 to take part in the “non-profit” game, which she claims had biscuits, chocolates, drinks and English Breakfasts as prizes.
“The one euro was to put towards prizes for the next game. We weren’t making any profit. If anything we were taking a loss”, she said.
Officers flooded the bar at around 9pm that night.
According to Pittaway, undercover investigators had visited the bar a couple of week’s earlier and returned an hour before the crack-down took place.
“We were the last to leave the bar. We locked up and were taken on a bus to the station at around ten past ten Friday night and we only left at quarter to three in the morning”, she said, arguing: “Most of our customers are OAPs and they’ve never been in trouble in their lives. Now they’ve been arrested and in court for a game of bingo. Clients want entertainment and we were only playing for a box of biscuits and some drinks.”
Elidérico Viegas, head of the Algarve’s largest hotel and resort association AHETA, agrees tourists should have entertainment but that it should take place in rightful places.
Speaking to The Portugal News he reflected: “Hotels that host games in which the prizes are not cash should not be hounded by the authorities. Rather the contrary. Normally such programmes are held in hotels and not bars. Bars are not the most appropriate places for such entertainment.”
Pittaway reasoned: “I know police have a job to do and have to follow up everything, but
this was over-exaggerated. If anything, take
us, the owners, in for questioning and not the customers.”
A similar incident occurred in 2010 when police closed down a popular Irish pub in the village of Alvor (Algarve) after it was found to be involved in an illegal horse-race betting set-up.


Would you do this in the UK??
by John from UK on 04-07-2013 11:50:00
I was told by a local bar owner that they even have to pay to have pot plants outside their bar. I was offered one for my flat as they had too many and could get fined. How bonkers is that!
by Carol from UK on 03-07-2013 08:04:00
I had a business in the Algarve, you need a licence for EVERYTHING, music from the radio or Tv, a licence..50€ a quarter..small place..A pub, irrespective of size..5000€...smoking licence..3000€...drive a van for business, no documents to what you carry, 1000€...I loved the country, sad and disappointed when I left, still miss it and the wonderful people...the Police and others do not realise what they are doing to there own country, if the Sun stopped shining would Portugal survive on its own too feet....the bingo people will now go to Spain and others like them, Portugal has tarnished its own good reputation, its done a Gerald Ratner...so sad..unfortunely its the hardworking Portuguese in the Algarve that will suffer, its a LONG WINTER..
by Charlie from UK on 01-07-2013 08:50:00
I now hope the GNR pay more attention to animal cruelty which is rife there,i have seen too many times kittens/cats/dogs crippled or dying through be tortured it really was heart breaking.
by Troy from UK on 01-07-2013 07:00:00
As I have commented on here before Sarah from Alentejo is incorrect in saying that bingo is illegal in Portugal, it is legal, it is not having a bureaucratic piece of paper called a license that makes it so. Regarding the comparison with having sex on the beach in Dubai is breathtaking and not worthy of any serious comment from me. And regarding mindless cruelty and violence in the UK, unfortunately that happens everywhere. For example is she aware of the charities/organizations/councils in Portugal that deal with the mindless cruelty and violence that some Portuguese men do to their wives/partners? Thought not! Finally as a Portuguese friend of mine who lives in Portugal said to me the other day about the "bingo" fiasco, she knew her country was 50 years behind the times, now it's 100! Finally I'm pleased she loves Portugal, as I do, but don't think I could live permanently anywhere else other than the UK!
by Alan from UK on 01-07-2013 11:31:00
Eliderico Viegas states that bingo should not be played in bars, but in hotels ( like his?)
If bingo iillegal then it is illegal. Why should hotels be exempt. Because they are Portugese? I don't see any bars or hotels being included in this CRACKDOWN on illegal gambling. As the GNR or tourist board, if giving away FREE bingo cards constitutes gambling. They cant say. From their statemet it cant be, as anyone who PAYS to take part in a game of chance is braking the gambling laws.If you don't pay it cannot be gamblng. Get a grip GNR & tourist board & sort it out. Your visitors WANT it in friendly bars, not big cold, unfriendly hotels. Typical though, if they see someone else making a euro, They want it.
by Brian Flanagan from Algarve on 01-07-2013 11:30:00
I was born in this country and i now live here, since a child i have said this is a stupid country, run by stupid government who pass ever ridiculous stupid laws, would you like to debate me, bring it on, if you are looking for a good future for yourself and your family,, leave NOW.
by Mr John from Algarve on 29-06-2013 11:20:00
Interesting points from Jo Tuffy & Nella from Algarve.The owner was under the impression (along with many bars ) that if you don't play for money prizes, its OK. She did ask that the customers be left alone, but the GNR refused Who are you Jo Tuffy to say we shouldn't be playing bingo, but should listen to some Fado instead. We don't come her to please you,but to relax in the sun,in our old age As for visiting a local bar. we do,but if we want to sit and stare at blank walls, we can do that at home The interesting and sanctamonious point that tourist should learn the laws of the coutry. How do you know if the bar you are in has a music licence? I'll bet most of the local Portugese bars don't. If not, YOU can be arrested , sitting down enjoying a drink at a bar and someone playing pool, no problem , good game , One player pays the other( common practice with locals) YOU get arrested. Observing a crime, or just being there is a crime, if you knew that, you know more than the local Portugese do.
by Brian Flangan from Algarve on 29-06-2013 12:12:00
If you are going to live in/ visit another country the onus is on you knowing that countries laws. Yes it does seem petty getting busted over a game of bingo, but it is illegal. Would you go to Dubai and have sex on the beach knowing the penalties involved? I think not. You think it's bad here, go back to the UK and see how much mindless cruelty and violence there is over there now. I for one love Portugal and its people, we don't ever want to have to go back to the UK.
by Sarah from Alentejo on 29-06-2013 11:33:00
I wonder how much the operation and following court time cost the tax-payer versus the amounts of fines levied. Hardly, I suspect, prudent use of troika funding.
by Mike Towl from Algarve on 29-06-2013 07:23:00
What a joke. I go to Albufiera every winter and have discussed with several bar operators the stupidity of some of the laws they must operate under. Apart from a licence to sell alcohol they need special licences to do practically anything on their premises from karaoke, piped in music, live entertainment, the placement of outside signage, you name it - not to forget of course fun bingo. Non compliance in even a minor way means being slapped with a hefty fine - as was the case with the Yorkshire Tavern. It almost sounds like a shake-down operation and makes me wonder whether the GNR could not be better occupied in real crime prevention.

Barry McKay
Ottawa, Canada
by Barry McKay from Other on 28-06-2013 08:32:00
The police should, instead, arrest drug dealers and thieves who spoil the tourists's holidays.
by Luis from Algarve on 28-06-2013 08:19:00
The bar which held the bingo game should have been held totally responsible....as bar owners they have the responsibility to keep within the law,,,,,the tourists I'm sure were not aware that it was illegal but the bar owners certainly knew.
by Nella from Algarve on 28-06-2013 07:47:00
It hit the Daybreak news on ITV too, I wrote an email to them expressing that whilst the tourists were not aware of the local laws against gambling, the owner of the bar in question should have been and therefore the onus was on them. However everyone should check the laws of the country they are visiting. Each country is different and you should not expect "home from home", but embrace the differences of a new country. Portugal has much to offer, instead of playing bingo, why not go listen to some Fado or visit local bars and restaurants where local welcome you.
I agree with the law being upheld with the Police, it is because of lack of laws in the UK gambling has got totally out of hand, in every shape and form.
by Jo Tutty from Algarve on 28-06-2013 07:17:00
It hit the Daybreak news on ITV too, I wrote an email to them expressing that whilst the tourists were not aware of the local laws against gambling, the owner of the bar in question should have been and therefore the onus was on them. However everyone should check the laws of the country they are visiting. Each country is different and you should not expect "home from home", but embrace the differences of a new country. Portugal has much to offer, instead of playing bingo, why not go listen to some Fado or visit local bars and restaurants where local welcome you.
I agree with the law being upheld with the Police, it is because of lack of laws in the UK gambling has got totally out of hand, in every shape and form.
by Jo Tutty from Algarve on 28-06-2013 07:14:00
The unlawful malicious prosecution of a bystander. The overt corruption of the Camera. The regular instances of violent street crime. Are all reasons why I will abandoning my villa which is in negative equity after this season. Trust me I know several Irish owners whose mortgage is up in the next 12 months and are doing the same.
The arrogance of the ruling class here is astounding and suicidal
by rdaniels from Algarve on 28-06-2013 04:22:00
Lots of immigrants criticising the country they're living in. If you don't like Portugal you are free to leave and go somewhere else. It's what you want foreigners in your countries to do. When I lived in your 'more civilised' countries I never went online to criticise the host country's laws and customs....
by Fed Up from Algarve on 28-06-2013 04:22:00
Interesting to note Portuguese police are keener to collect money from visitors happy to spend their hard earned savings in this country, on top of having to contribute to their financial bailout. Just wish they had been as interested and efficient in investigating child abduction cases. I have had many holidays in this country but they will never get any more of my cash. Tripadviser next for my opinion.
by tykerman from UK on 28-06-2013 03:52:00
Apparently you can play chess in a bar. It is a game of skill. Anyone want to play , winner gets €10 and a pint?
What about bingo wings, are they illegal in a bar?
by Mark Wylie from Algarve on 28-06-2013 02:59:00
People who work hard all year deserve a holiday, the Brits, love playing bingo, the brits and Irish love football and rugby, if you enjoy these little pleasures, please make sure before you enter any bars in the Algarve check them out, or you could be 300€ and a crimanal record...oh, dont forget the tolls....enjoy..
by Charlie from UK on 28-06-2013 02:02:00
Love the old chestnut "ignorance of the law is no excuse"...I do hope those from Portugal going to uk read the 1968 Gaming Act to ensure all paragraphs are assimilated to ensure they are aware of all laws and subsections pertaining to the legislation: No doubt Faro airport will soon have law rooms so incoming tourist can avail themselves of law books to ensure they are not ignorant of the law.

meantime on "planet algarve " where watching tv in a bar now constitutes a crime if someone is playing bingo nearby has made Portugal as one forum poster observed - a laughing stock.

Of course we might have a expected a common sense approach to all of this....but then thats the trouble with common sense in the algarve - its not that common.

Perhaps the Portugal News could now attempt as as an experiment to get a bingo licence, it will be interesting to see how its is obtained and if it is easy or not.

Anyone what to place a bet (doh)
by mhepton from Algarve on 28-06-2013 01:57:00
Whilst acknowledging the rights of Portugal to set rules that forbid a game of bingo and all other forms of games involving chance and luck would someone please explain why I am allowed to go to the Casino to lose my money and also to buy a lottery ticket at shops throughout Portugal with my Portuguese friends ??
by Steve from Algarve on 28-06-2013 01:43:00
I don't care. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, something that particularly applies to the bar owners. In their countries we have to respect their laws and would be in trouble for breaking them, so why shouldn't they do the same here? Just because they're tourists? They should feel lucky they did not do this in the Middle East, where they would have been jailed for years. If only our politicians had created the conditions for the economy to be less reliant on tourism and we would not be under pressure by certain foreign tourists to change our way of life to suit theirs.
by Reboltado from Porto on 28-06-2013 12:31:00
At first thought, it's easy to understand the mixed feelings in this case. But, generally speaking, Portugal should be proud of its strict gambling laws. Most European countries have given up their strict measures and the consequences are absolutely saddening, if not destructive. Thousands and thousands of people become addicted to gambling, and in its footsteps follows crime. Europeans, like myself, who love the Portuguese way of life, should urge Portugal to keep to its strict rules and continue as a safe haven against gambling and all the related wrongdoings and misery.

by William Kern from Alentejo on 28-06-2013 11:11:00
If as reported this was "fun" bingo with no cash prizes surely the commonsense answer would have been for the GNR on their first visit to have warned/cautioned the owner not to do it or get a license. And contrary to various comments on here it is not illegal to play bingo, it is not having a license that makes it so. What a bureaucratic nonsense when there are so many more important things that need to be addressed in Portugal, Europe and the World in general. I presume the tossing of a coin to see who buys the next round of drinks, choosing numbers for the lottery with friends etc in a public place is illegal without a license! See I can talk nonsense as well! Wake up Portugal please and I refer to my comment the other day about "the barman on the Titanic"!
by Alan from UK on 28-06-2013 10:10:00
It was illegal gambling disguised simple as that,the bar owners must have known the risk,if they owned a bar in the UK they would have not dared to fool the law,when in Rome.
by Troy from UK on 28-06-2013 09:31:00
This story is a sad one for me as a resident for 25 years in this beautiful part of the world. That the Mayor of Albufeira and other chiefs of tourism did not immediately intervene and request sanity and clemency is so disappointing. That the police and then the courts took it to such levels is equally appalling.
Laws are created to protect society but common sense should prevail when they overstep the purpose. Can any of those involved in this persecution of innocent tourists be proud of the job they have done? Can the Mayor and the Tourist Board be pleased with the world wide negative publicity this has caused.
I ask the Mayor to show understanding and to start an appeal process against the sentencing in order to reimburse the fines and to eradicate the record of suspended sentences for the unfortunate victims of this dubious police raid.
Damage has been done, but the inherent hospitality and fairness of the Algarve people needs to be displayed now.
by Anonymous from Algarve on 27-06-2013 11:28:00
Now lets see - about a month ago we had 24 gnr and 6 riot police with machine guns at a car boot sale, now we have 12 gnr and undercover stake outs to stop a game of bingo.

I do hope the tourist board will now issue portuguese law books at the airport so all visitors are aware of the thousands of laws we have here, after all lawbreakers must be punished.

According to the "safe communities" burb clarification of charity quiz nights is now sought to see if these too need a licence.

While they are at it, can they ask if playing Monopoly (a game of luck and chance ) need a licence as well?

By the way you say opinion is divided ...in all the forums that are debating this matter all are appalled at this.

Worth recalling that Amnesty Int was started by a london lawyer who heard of the arrest of two students in Lisbon in the sixties who had toasted liberty after a meal...now it seems you can be arrested if you shout bingo!
by mhepton from Algarve on 27-06-2013 10:03:00

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Edition 1466
10 March 2018
Edition: 1466

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.



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