Lotto tourism for Italy jackpot

2009-08-13 18:04

Rome - Germans, Austrians and other foreigners are heading into Italy to play the lottery ahead of a record $186m jackpot, including some who flew into Milan for a few hours just for a chance to win on Thursday night.

Germany's top-selling Bild newspaper said 140 passengers aboard a chartered Air Berlin jet won a phone-in contest for free airline tickets aboard an early afternoon flight from Berlin to Milan's Malpensa airport.

Besides the free seats, the winners were being treated to a heaping plateful of pasta, a cup of espresso and the opportunity to buy Superenalotto tickets at a smokeshop at the Milan airport.

Later in the afternoon, without ever leaving the airport, the passengers will be flown back to Berlin, "just in time for dinner and to find out if they've won," said private Italian Canale 5 TV.

'There's no logic in luck'

The six-number combination will be announced by about 20:30. No one has picked the winning combination of six numbers since January, and now the Superenalotto jackpot is Italy's biggest ever - and, according to Italian news reports, the biggest in Europe, as well. Drawings are held three times a week.

Austrians, Croats and Slovenes living close to Italy were "storming" across the border to try their luck, the Austria Press Agency reported on Thursday.

Many of them were packing restaurants and hotels in Italy's German-speaking Alto Adige, or South Tyrol, region, which borders Austria.

Austrians have been buzzing about a new kind of vacation: "lotto tourism".

French visitors have also been driving into neighbouring northwest Italy for a chance to play the numbers lotto, many Germans have been sighted in resort towns of Lake Maggiore buying tickets, and Superenalotto tickets appeared to be as popular as postcards in many Venice souvenir shops.

Likewise, Italians have been lining up outside smokeshops to play their favorite numbers, not all of them with dreams of riches.

The mayor and some of his employees in one small town in northeast Italy have pledged to use any winnings to build a theatre for Cesenelli's 1 900 citizens.

"We've played our ages, our birth dates" as the lucky numbers, said Mayor Marco Trombini in a telephone interview. "There's no logic in luck anyway."