Bingo! Future of gambling is up in air.
By Ian Jarrett ~ The Grumpy Traveller
Wednesday, 23rd November 2005
Ian Jarrett prepares to lay bets on superjumbo camel racing.

That nice man Michael O'Leary – the Ryanair boss who charges for wheelchairs to be carried on his planes – is at it again.

The man who thinks so little of travel agents he would like them to dump them en masse into the Irish Sea – is not satisfied with whisking Brits into Europe for a pound plus taxes.

He wants to fly them for free. Yes, that's right, buck's nights and hen parties – two of the currently fashionable UK travel sectors – will be able to throw up all over Prague or create a nuisance in Krakow and it won't cost them a penny.

O'Leary hopes to achieve his fly-for-free services by launching inflight gaming.  Airline passengers will not just lose their luggage – they'll lose the shirts off their backs.

What kind of gaming will be permitted is yet to be worked out but you should be scared because soon you may be flying at 36,000ft in a mini-casino.

If the game is something as benign as bingo, will the captain and the co-pilot be expected to know bingo lingo?  In between setting the auto-pilot and checking their duty free bags, will the flight crew call out the bingo numbers – Number 10 - Tony's Den; Number  88 – Two Fat Ladies; Number 17 – Dancing Queen?

Bingo! the lady in seat 36B wins the prize of a free flight on Ryanair, and the runner-up wins two free flights.

Cabin staff may have to be trained as croupiers and will need to be aware that a royal flush is not something connected with the toilet in First Class on British Airways.

Qantas will be quick to embrace onboard gaming and may opt to use its A380 superjumbos to offer the uniquely Australian game of Two-Up, where punters bet on how two coins thrown in the air will land – heads or tails. The wide aisles of the A380 will suit this game perfectly.

Emirates will use its A380s for camel racing, while the major US airlines, when they get cleaned out by winning gamblers, will ask Washington to bale them out.

Thai Airways will want to introduce cock fighting but with the current concerns over bird flu this may prove a challenge.

On Air India, passengers will have the chance to bet on the results of cricket matches shown on seat back TVs. Dodgy bookmakers will be on board claiming that the players haven't tipped them the result.

Garuda Indonesia will offer odds on whether its planes will land on schedule and Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic will take bets on female nude mud wrestling in a roped off section of economy class.

Conservative Singapore Airlines will resist inflight gaming until it becomes apparent that everyone else is doing well with it. In the meantime, it will issue its passengers with sudoko puzzles, while setting up an arms-length gaming subsidiary, Slick Air, based in Sentosa.

Cathay Pacific will be taken over by Stanley Ho and renamed High Roller Air, with a new base in Macau; and Kerry Packer will launch a low-cost operation in Asia, calling it Punter's Pal Airlines.

On Aeroflot, the game of choice will be Russian roulette and on Air Zimbabwe the gamblers will be playing for the land of white farmers.

You may think I'm making this up – but I wouldn't bet on it.

IAN JARRETT is based in Fremantle, Western Australia from where he travels frequently in Asia on assignments for travel magazines.

He is a member of the BamBoo Alliance, a group of leading travel writers in the region. He can be contacted at ianjarrett@mac.com
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