'Bingo-for-biscuits' Brits fined in Portugal

The BBC's Jason Kaye explains how the incident unfolded

Twenty-eight British and Irish expats and holiday-makers have been fined after police in Portugal caught them playing bingo for biscuits and drinks.

Landlady Marianne Pittaway, from North Yorkshire, was fined 700 euros (£595) for hosting the game at The Yorkshire Tavern in Albufeira, on Friday night.

Ms Pittaway, 34, also received a four-month suspended prison sentence.

She said she was "still in shock" and that the country's regulations were "wrong in a lot of aspects".

Ms Pittaway, who has been in Portugal for eight years, said her bar would "definitely not" be staging bingo again following Friday's raid.

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When we tried to leave three of the guys, who were armed police, actually made a barricade in front of us”

End Quote Lee Williams

The 28 appeared in court in Albufeira earlier to face charges of "exploitation of illegal gambling, illegal gambling and witnessing illegal gambling", according to the police.

Even some of the people in the bar who were not playing bingo were fined 150 euros (£125) and given a three-month suspended sentence for "witnessing illegal gambling".

Organisers of bingo in Portugal have to apply for a government licence.

'Just a joke'

Speaking ahead of her court appearance, Ms Pittaway, originally from York, said: "I put on the bingo for some entertainment and a bit of fun. We were only playing for some biscuits and drinks.

"One minute we were all playing, having a bit of fun and then we were just bundled off in three police vans and taken to the police station."

Some of the people in the bar when it was raided by the police were not required to appear in court.

Among them were Lee Williams and Claire Fairhurst, from Wigan, who were not involved in the bingo. The couple were allowed to return to the UK.

Mr Williams said: "When we tried to leave three of the guys, who were armed police, actually made a barricade in front of us and told us were not allowed to leave and that we had to go to the police station to be read our rights and that we were being arrested as part of an illegal gambling group.

"I've had a lot of ribbing from my mates - I'm sick of hearing people saying 'eyes down' or 'house' - you've just got to smile about it, really."

In a statement, Portuguese police, Faro GNR, said the action had been carried out following "information reported by anonymous citizens".

It said officers found people were playing "games of luck and chance" outside an authorised place.

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