A group of some 30 Brits, including tourists and expats, were questioned by police recently in Portugal after allegedly breaking the strict gambling laws of that country, despite the fact that the first prize in the activities was just a tin of biscuits and a bar of chocolate.
Police posed as customers at a pub where it was rumored that the Portuguese gambling laws were being broken, in order to mingle among the obviously “dangerous” criminals vying for the sought-after sugary prizes.
Police badges were finally drawn by two detectives after the prizes were handed out, at which point a dozen uniformed officers were radioed in to swoop down on the holidaymakers and expats who ranged in age from 23 to 76.
The ensuing raid led to the group being detained for four hours of questioning after being herded into minibuses and transported to the police station.
“They rounded us up like a bunch of gangsters at about 11 pm,” exclaimed 34-year-old landlady Marianne Pittaway, who runs the pub with Portuguese partner Antonio Cardoso. “It was about 3 am by the time they let us all go.”
The Portuguese law states that organizers of bingo or raffle nights are required to apply for a one-off government license, which certainly does away with the idea of the traditional meat prize draws and sporting raffles that many Brits enjoy at their hometown watering holes.
“I explained I thought bingo was only illegal if cash prizes were being handed out,” added Pittaway. “We were just giving away a few little prizes for fun.” But as it turns out, the Portuguese do not take their gambling laws lightly.
“It was only the third week. I recognized the plain-clothes cops from the first two weeks. They must have been staking the place out, ready for the big sting.”
Pittaway explained that the couple took around 50 euros from the punters to purchase the prizes for the bingo game, and didn’t profit from the illegal activity. Although it could be suggested that profit from the event came in the form of more customers putting money behind the bar.
Even customers not partaking in the bingo game were said to have been arrested for “observing a crime,” which seems somewhat over the top in an already over-the-top situation.
The winner of the biscuits and chocolate bar, 74-year-old Gerald Platt, explained that he was required to write his name on the reverse of his bingo card, which was then sealed in a plastic evidence bag along with the pen he’d used to write with.
He added that although the police confiscated the tin of biscuits, he managed to hide the chocolate bar. “I shared that round on a bus on the way to the station. Some people didn’t want any, because they were worried about eating the evidence,” said Platt.
While the punishments are yet to be confirmed, the arrests prove one point: ignorance of the law is not an excuse.