​Making Money in the Canary Islands Letters from the Atlantic by Barrie Mahoney

'Writing Inspired by an Island in the Atlantic'

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​Making Money in the Canary Islands

Making Money in the Canary Islands

Some time ago, I received publicity material for the Canary Islands’ edition of the board game, Monopoly. For those of you who are not familiar with the game, I can assure you that it is a very pleasant all-islands version of the popular board game, but relevant to the delights of the Canary Islands, rather than the smog and stresses of London, which most British players will be familiar with.

Have you ever played Monopoly? Some of you may well groan at the memory of bitter squabbles and arguments when losing, whilst for others it may bring happy memories of playing with family and friends, whilst setting you on a path to be a successful entrepreneur. I used to play it, but it was not a game that I was very keen on, or really understood. I do remember being unhappy unless I managed to get the little dog as a playing piece, as well as being teased, because I was never interested in buying the ‘posh’ London estates in Mayfair and Park Lane, because I much preferred the cosier properties in Old Kent Road. Needless to say, I never did become a successful businessman and much preferred the game of Scrabble instead.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the game, it has been remarkably successful over the years. For those who are more used to playing video games, I should explain that Monopoly is a game of chance; a board game whereby players roll two six-sided dice to move around the board, buying and selling properties. Players collect rent from their opponents, with the charming aim of trying to drive opponents into bankruptcy.

The game was invented by an American woman, an anti-monopolist called Elizabeth Magie, in 1903 as a way to demonstrate a capitalist economy. It was intended to demonstrate that an economy that rewards the creation of wealth is better than one in which monopolists operate under less constraints. There is also a more sinister underpinning to the game in that it is designed to promote the work of Henry George and his theories of taxation.

One story about the game that I particularly like, is that in 1941, the British Secret Service approached the British manufacturer of the game, John Waddington, to create a special edition for World War 2 prisoners captured by the Nazis. Compasses, maps, real money and other items that might come in useful for escaping were hidden inside these games. These ‘special editions’ were distributed to prisoners of war by British secret service agents disguised as charity workers.

In 1991, Hasbro bought Parker Brothers and its interests in Monopoly and happily went on to allow multiple licensing of the game across the world. As well as board games, a variety of spin offs appeared including a live TV game show, computer and video games, gambling versions for slot machines, on line versions, films, tournaments, and even a World championship event.

There are already a number of published local Spanish editions for Ibiza, Granada, the Basque Country and Cantabria, as well as special editions celebrating sports teams such as Barcelona Football Club or Real Madrid, among others. According to the company, this special edition was selected because of the Canary Islands’ “incredible natural environment, its enormous wealth and cultural variety and its international relevance at a tourist level”.

The Canary Islands edition of the game is published by a British company, Winning Moves, and is produced as a bilingual Spanish-English version. It has the support of three large companies that operate throughout the archipelago: Fred Olsen Express, Lopesan Group and Cajasiete. The game maintains the aesthetics and rules of the traditional game, so should be enjoyed by tourists and residents alike.

Over the years, the game has been vastly improved, but maybe the new Canary Islands’ edition could include the handsome Canary Mastiff dog as one of its playing pieces? Monopoly is still going from strength to strength. Anyone for a game? Protection Status

© Barrie Mahoney

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Expat in Spain
Living in Spain