It is being called Lotto-Tourism. Hundreds of Germans, Austrians and other foreigners have been racing to Italy by plane, car and train to buy tickets for the biggest lottery in Europe worth 131.5 million euros.
Germany’s top selling daily newspaper said 140 passengers flew in after a winning a phone-in contest for free airline tickets to Milan’s Malpensa airport.
The size of the Italian lottery, not won since last January, has proved a big draw.
“There is a huge number of foreigners buying lottery tickets,” said one shopkeeper. “They come from Spain, France,Switzerland, and Germany. They’re very well organized, they already know how it works.”
Alberto Bobbio, editor-in-chief of the influential weekly Famiglia Cristiana commented: “Some bishops have said they cannot stop this hunt for luck, especially at this time of economic crisis. In 2008 the turnover of the lotteries in Italy was 47 billion euros. This means the lottery business is the third biggest industry after ENI and Fiat.”
With so much money at stake in this record jackpot, lottery fever in Italy shows no signs of abating. In Ficarra, a town of 2,000 inhabitants in Sicily, the mayor took 115 euros from the wages of each council member to buy extra lotto tickets.