Unlucky for some: three Irish people among 28 arrested during bingo game in Portugal

Dublin man and Irish couple among those arrested in an Algarve pub for partaking in or witnessing illegal gambling

Three Irish people were among 28 arrested in a pub in the Algarve in Portugal on Friday during a game of bingo.

Three Irish people were among 28 arrested in a pub in the Algarve in Portugal on Friday during a game of bingo.


It was a case of unlucky for some for three unsuspecting Irish people who have received fines and suspended sentences in Portugal for partaking in an illegal activity: bingo.

A Dublin man and an Irish couple were among 28 people arrested in the Yorkshire Tavern in Albufeira in the Algarve on Friday night for partaking in or witnessing illegal gambling.

Pub-owner Marianne Pittaway said they were enjoying a “normal Friday night” when she invited her customers to pay a €1 entry fee to play bingo.

The stakes were high: the prize for a line was a box of biscuits and some chocolate while a full-house earned the winner a voucher for breakfast-for-two.

One bingo player had just picked up his prize when the police entered the premises and informed the group that what were doing was illegal. Bingo operators in Portugal are required to apply for a government licence.

“Everyone was wondering what the hell was going on and then we realised we were being detained for illegal gambling,” Ms Pittaway said yesterday.

Illegal gambling
She said one of her regulars, a man from Dublin, had almost finished his drink and was about to leave the bar when he was arrested for witnessing illegal gambling. He later received a €150 fine and a three-month suspended sentence.

An Irish couple who took part in the game were fined €300 each and given a three-month suspended sentence.

Ms Pittaway said they never played for money, adding that the €1 entry fee was used to buy the biscuits and chocolates for the following week’s bingo game.

Ms Pittaway said the bar had been “inundated with support” since the arrests took place and had been contacted by various newspapers and TV crews in the UK and Portugal which have picked up on the story.

“All I want out of this is for the [Portugese] government to see that this is stupid,” she said.