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August 14, 2009

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Foreigners rush to Italy in lottery frenzy

GERMANS, Austrians and other foreigners are heading to Italy to play the lottery ahead of a record 131.5-million euro (US$186 million) jackpot, including some who flew into Milan for a few hours just for a chance to win last 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 Italian Canale 5 TV.

The six-number combination will be announced by about 8:30pm Italy time yestrday. 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. Draws 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 said yesterday.

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 neighboring 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.

Not surprisingly, Italians, too, have been lining up outside smokeshops to play their favorite numbers.


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