Lottery tourists descend on Italy for $194 million jackpot

It's nothing for die-hard lotto fans in the U.S. to travel to a neighboring state when a triple digit jackpot makes headlines, but would you fly to another country just for a chance to buy lottery tickets? That's what's happening in Italy, thanks to a record-setting $194 million dollar jackpot in the national lottery.

It seems all of Europe has caught "Lotto Fever," with 140 Germans boarding a plane, after being selected by a newspaper, to make the trip to Italy to buy a spaghetti dinner and lotto tickets at a "smoke shop" in the airport. They were then rushed home to watch the lottery results.

The craze isn't just for foreigners. The San Francisco Chronicle tells the sad tale of an individual in Italy who spent $2,800 on lottery tickets, despite the 1 to 622 million odds against him.

If you think that's bad then wait until you hear about the Mayor who took money from the salaries of city council members and played the lottery in a bid to recoup money the Italian Government failed to deliver on, despite a harsh criticism on the lottery from the Catholic Church.

Despite the obvious losers here, (basically everyone playing the lotto), there are a few winners in this mess. For one, the government and Super Enalotto organizer SISAL S.p.A stand to make a great deal off of the additional players. The money pouring in from players in surrounding countries is especially profitable for the government, since the players won't be around long enough to reap the benefits of their contribution. The tourism industry in Italy has also seen a boost, especially in hotels and restaurants, thanks to individuals entering the country for a shot at millions.

Of course if a foreigner wins the big jackpot, Italy won't see the windfall of local consumer spending anyway. Or maybe it will: George Clooney has a castle in Italy, why can't you -- provided you win nearly $200 million in a lottery?

On top of the foolishness of playing a lottery with 622 million to 1 odds, traveling to Italy to do so is enough to make even understanding friends schedule an intervention. Especially since anyone over 18 can play the Super Enalotto by purchasing a ticket online. You can even find out what numbers have historically been the luckiest before you send your hard earned money off to Italy.
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