Europe

Elderly Germans lose bingo in legal scare

Bingo player - file pic Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption No large sums changed hands at the German bingo evenings (archive pic)

A care home provider in Cologne has suspended its popular bingo evenings for the elderly because it does not have a licence for gambling.

An accountant said SBK-Köln's bingo evenings could be illegal, after spotting that a winner had received a box of chocolates. Players paid 0.5 euros (£0.4; $0.6) for each bingo card.

SBK-Köln is now trying to get its bingo legalised as "a small lottery".

"Bingo should resume in February," the firm's manager Gabriele Patzke said.

She said about 100 elderly people enjoyed the weekly bingo evenings at the firm's Riehl care home. They included guests from outside the home.

'It's about being sociable'

The suspension of bingo had "caused disappointment - it's a popular event", she told the BBC.

The prizes are not big - mostly chocolates or cakes, she explained.

She said that in North Rhine-Westphalia state the authorities can allow small lotteries without the organisers requiring a gambling licence. This is what she is currently trying to arrange.

A two-times winner, 73-year-old Ingeborg Kohllöffel, told Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger news: "Our bingo was banned for such a petty reason."

"We really miss our bingo evenings," she said.

"It's not about money, it's about being sociable. Many of us only have small pensions - we can't afford costly bus journeys or trips to the cinema."

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