Posted on 25 June 2013
A group of British vacationers and expats have run afoul of the law in Portugal over a bingo game. The patrons at the Yorkshire Club in the Portuguese resort of Albufeira are facing hefty fines and criminal charges after police stages a dramatic raid to stop “illegal gambling.” The pub was opened by Marianne Pittaway, 34, after she left her home in York and moved to Portugal. The pub had been visited by two plain clothes detectives posing as customers.
The bingo games were not for money but that didn’t make any difference to puritanical police. When a container of biscuits and chocolate were handed out as prizes during Friday Night’s bingo games the detectives flashed their police badges and arrested players and non-players alike. They called in a dozen officers to transport the bingo prisoners. Thirty people in the pub including Ms. Pittaway, her partner Antonio Cardoso and several people that had not been playing bingo were taken to a police station and interrogated for several hours.
Some were set free and allowed to return to the UK but 27 ex-pats and vacationers were forced to attend court proceedings and faced charges of “witnessing illegal gambling.” Gambling laws in Portugal require bingo operators to apply for a license or face fines of between £1,300 and £8,500! Ms. Pittaway said she took 50 euros to cover the cost of the prizes and didn’t thing she was doing anything wrong since she did not award cash prizes to the winners. Pittaway told the Yorkshire Post “I was providing entertainment for my customers. Bingo is a big part of British culture. We are just doing it for fun so I don’t see that we are doing anything wrong. Everyone is in good spirits but we are all mortified because of what has happened. Two police came up to the counter and detained everyone at the bar, including people who weren’t even playing bingo. They could have just shut the bar and taken me and Antonio but it was everyone.”
Police said the raid was part of an ongoing police action to crack down on illegal gambling in the area. A spokesman for the police told the Portugal News “Those who were involved were participating in a game of ‘luck and chance’ and were arrested. They were taken to Albufeira police station and notified to appear in court.” He said the pub patrons were only questioned and not held in cells and added “It is not the first time action has been carried out against illegal gambling and it won’t be the last.” Ms. Pittaway said she made no profits from the games and stated “At the end of the day I will just stick to doing a normal quiz. I won’t be doing bingo any more. The way I see it is that they don’t want tourism and are making it very difficult for people to comply with all the rules and regulations. We don’t know what is in or out. I am just lucky I have got the ex-pat trade that is what is keeping me going. I love what I am doing but the consequences of today will come down very hard. It is not only the fine but I will get inspections left, right and centre now.”
Posted on 27 May 2013
30 year old Matt West has been a runner and caller at Florida bingo halls for almost a decade. West has worked at Mr. Bingo in Panama City fir the last six years and said he has learned that bingo is “something people do in their spare time.” West pays winners at the hall and told reporters “The bigger the crowd, the faster the pace is going to be. Everything kind of comes naturally; you treat people like people, you take their money and you pay them out.”
Most bingo halls are open seven days a week mornings and evenings. Some players in a hurry play the pull tab games available at most bingo parlors. In Florida bingo players are still allowed to smoke and while there Florida legislators have crafted laws to slow the expansion of gambling in the state there is very little oversight for bingo. Florida’s laws prohibit gambling establishments from operating solely for the sake of gambling. Bingo games in Florida must sponsored by a charitable organization that has been in business for at least three years.
The law also requires that all revenues generated by bingo games to go to the sponsoring organizations after operating costs have been deducted. Local bingo games have donated millions to various charities over the years. Gregory Wilson, Florida’s Chief Assistant State Attorney said that bingo’s legal status was from the days when churches used bingo as a fundraising tool. Because bingo games were well established before Florida passed gambling laws legislators created exceptions to let bingo games continue. Bingo revenues must be donated to charities under the current laws.
The statute that governs bingo does not require bingo halls to file financial reports with the state that shows operating costs and the amounts donated to charity. George Hughes of Bingo Paradise told reporters “We work from trust. We do our thing and they do theirs. We take our (money) to the lodge and then give it out to the people.” The unregulated relationship between operators and charities has led several operators to take advantage of the state’s “very general guidelines.” In recent months there has been an influx of former internet cafe patrons. Most of the returnees are seniors looking for affordable entertainment. So far there have been no real scandals in the bingo industry and lawmakers have seen no real reason to regulate the games.
Posted on 12 October 2012
Thanks to ill-advised federal laws online bingo players in the United States are forced to patronize offshore bingo sites that may or may not be reputable and licensed. When the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed in 2006 (UIGEA) many British online bingo sites immediately imposed a blanket ban on players from the United States. To make things even more complicated federal regulators shut down a few online payment processors such as Neteller. Because of the law American players were forced to patronize bingo sites that use British Pounds or Euros as their currency of choice.
Exchange rates can have an effect of jackpots. An unfavorable exchange rate can have a significant impact on a large jackpot. Even worse for American players credit card companies charge high fees for exchanging currencies. The same companies treat gambling transactions the same as cash advances and high interest rates are assessed on any gambling transactions. At the present time American players have been shut out of British bingo sites there are still a few accepting American players. Players at UK bingo sites enjoy all of the protections provided by the British Government and online bingo sites are strictly regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.
Calculating exchange rates need not be difficult. There are many currency exchange rate tools available on the internet for free. The most popular is the XE Universal Currency Converter. Exchange rates are updated several times a day and the conversion tool is easy to use. There are well over 100 currencies listed so players should have no trouble finding the currency of choice for most bingo sites. There are a few online bingo sites that offer games in several currencies. The most common online bingo currencies are the Euro, British Pound and the US Dollar. Players should be advised that in most cases a conversion fee will be charged to trade currencies.
Exchange rates are a double edged sword and can help or hurt the size of a large jackpot. For the last three years the Euro has fluctuated between $1.25 and $1.45 against the US Dollar. If a player won a jackpot denominated in Euros at a rate of $1.45 and the Euro rate suddenly fell to $1.30 that player may lose some serious cash. Unlike the Euro the British Pound has not seen any wild fluctuations and is probably a better choice for American players. Until congress takes action on internet gaming players from the US will have to seep up with the latest exchange rates.