Aftermath of the Bingo arrests

By David Thomas

President of Associação Safe Communities Algarve

There has been extensive coverage expressing a diverse range of views, both for and against, about the arrest and conviction of 28 people for various illegal gambling offences. Everyone is entitled to their view, but the focus should now be on ensuring this is not repeated by enabling greater compliance with the gambling laws in the future.

Last week the Algarve Resident reported that 28 British people had been arrested and quizzed for four hours by the GNR police for taking part in a bingo session at the Yorkshire Tavern pub in Albufeira. The ‘gamblers’ appeared in Albufeira Court on June 24 where they received substantial fines. The owners claim that the prizes were only a tin of biscuits or a bar of chocolate, but for the Portuguese police they broke the strict gambling laws of the country.

Although clearly the onus rests with bar owners to comply with the law, there is in the view of Associação Safe Communities Algarve (SCA) the need for greater clarity in some instances concerning what exactly constitutes gambling, in order to ensure greater awareness and compliance by bar owners, as well as helping residents and visitors to Portugal.

Many people, especially the local community, are already aware of the law and fully comply with its requirements by applying for appropriate licences. In this particular case, it is interesting to note that the law in the UK is that it is illegal for a pub to charge for participation in a bingo game – so no excuses here, I feel.

The police position is that they are compelled to act upon formal complaints and in accordance with the law, and having determined that there is substance to the complaint, they are required to take enforcement action and are not permitted to give a warning. Under the gambling law, it is an offence to be present where illicit gambling is taking place (whether or not participating) and the police cannot lawfully exercise discretion in this matter – that rests with the courts. There was no other GNR agenda as some have imagined in acting upon the complaint.

We have to live and should abide by the laws of the country (whether we like them or not) and as these are not likely to change in the near future, the practical way forward now is to ensure greater understanding by all concerned and therefore compliance.

Following meetings with the GNR, British Vice Consul and Turismo de Algarve, SCA has initiated the production of an information leaflet to be available to bar owners and all concerned. This will explain in layman’s terms the legal position concerning various activities such as bingo, raffles, charity fundraising and quiz nights, and how more information can be obtained if required. An approach has therefore been made to the government games licensing authority to clarify the position, thus ensuring the advice received is accurate.

The police have actively supported this initiative and once clarification has been obtained, this will be widely disseminated both by SCA and others. This will be an important step forward in ensuring future compliance and avoiding people becoming inadvertently involved.

Read the full story ‘Bingo arrests in Albufeira’, published in last week’s issue, online at

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