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Bingo Arrives in Italy

27 November 2001

ITALY – Nov. 27, 2001 –As reported by the Irish Times: "It was probably fitting that Italy's first official bingo winner was a glamorous 48-year-old blonde, complete with shocking-red miniskirt. The game the Anglo-Saxon world associates with pensioners could take on a very different, more upmarket image in Italy.

"Bingo hit the country's streets for the first time earlier this month, when 440 people turned up one Saturday night at a converted car showroom, revamped with a metallic high-tech look, in the prosperous northern town of Treviso.

"…Were you of a certain old-fashioned, antiglobalisation nature, you might wonder whether this latest gambling acquisition will do much to improve the quality of Italian life. Have Italians not long enjoyed tombola, a more subtle, more entertaining version of the game?

"…[Tombola] tends to be more a social occasion at which taking part - dressed up in your best and most revealing summer wear - rather than winning is what matters.

"Compared with such games of tombola, five-minute bingo games in a converted car showroom, where silence and a deadly concentration are obligatory, seem very dull. To put it another way, bingo is to tombola what the Big Mac is to scalopini al vino. Need I say more?

"…Being Italy and Italians, too, they will bring a sense of style to the ghastly business.

"The Treviso bingo hall, for example, was fitted out with a bar and a nursery, and the background music - U2 reportedly featured - would suggest the promoters are trying to win over a younger age group that normally would not be associated with the game, at least in Anglo-Saxon parts.

"Nor is there any lack of interest in bingo. Following a government decree last January, no less than 1,400 companies or individuals applied to the ministry of finance for licences to run the 420 bingo halls initially allowed. CIRSA, the bingo multinational, intends to invest $560 million in 36 bingo halls, where it hopes that between 500 and 600 players per day will guarantee a monthly turnover of $560,000.

"Within two years, there could be as many as 800 bingo halls in Italy. Not that this displeases the taxman, as the government will collect 23.8 per cent of the turnover. Almost 60 per cent goes to the winners; the remaining 18.2 per cent ends up in the coffers of the hall's owner…"

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