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Bingo Fever Sweeps Italy

11 January 2002

ROME –– As reported by CNN: "Bingo fever is sweeping Italy after the government finally legalised the game born there five centuries ago.

"…The traditional numbers game may be a past fad in other countries, but high-tech bingo salons, with their cash prizes and giant video screens flashing numbers at a rapid-fire pace, are suddenly `cool' in Italy.

"The game is actually coming home. The land of sleek fashion and Roman antiquities is also the birthplace of `gioco del lotto,' the world's first lottery played in 1530 which later evolved into bingo across the world, including the United States.

"But legal obstacles kept Italians waiting for their first legalised commercial bingo hall until just two months ago.

"…The government made bingo a legal form of gambling in 2000 and the first licensed hall started operating in the northern town of Treviso in November last year. Another 45 or so have since opened, paving the way for a new source of tax revenue.

"Some 800 bingo centres are expected to open across Italy over the next three years, contributing 23.8 percent of sales to the government.

"In 2002 alone, the Economy Ministry is betting on raking in up to $50 million a month from bingo.

"…Bingo has appeared just in time to compensate for a drop in lottery revenues due in part to the growing popularity of video-poker, which has swept coffee bars…"

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