Is there still a place for tambola in the digital age

75 years might have passed since independence, but Indian culture is still littered with remnants from the British raj. One of the most intriguing is the game of tambola. It’s one of the most popular games in India, something enjoyed by all generations and demographics.  

You might think that tambola is as Indian as aloo gobi, but that’s not quite the case. Tambola is a variant of bingo, a lottery-type game that has its roots in 16th century Italy and was adopted with great enthusiasm by the British in the late 1800s. They brought it to India and the game of tambola was born.  

A game for everyone 

A big part of tambola’s draw is that it can be enjoyed by all. Dainik Bhaskar won a silver award as the first newspaper to introduce the idea of publishing a new tambola number each day. It was a form of social gaming long before anyone had invented the phrase.  

However, this also serves as an illustration of the game’s struggle to stay relevant in the 21st century. Newspaper? Who reads newspapers anymore? What was a steady decline in readership numbers until 2019 suddenly became a free-fall plummet following the events of 2020.  

The internet – executioner or saviour?   

It surprises nobody to know that young Indians have little need for newspapers when they have local, domestic and international news apps at their fingertips 24/7. But the digital revolution is rapidly spreading in India. With cheap handsets and improved rural cell coverage, you no longer have to be a rich city dweller to own a smartphone and get online.  

On the face of it, that sounds like a trigger for decline in tambola playing. After all, the internet has brought dozens of new games, both for youngsters and adults, too. However, that’s not necessarily the case.  

Over in the UK, bingo went from boom to something close to bust as we ushered in the new millennium. There, it was very much seen as a game for over-65s to play in old fashioned halls and social clubs. The number of bingo clubs dropped from 600 to less than 400 in the space of eight years, the decline blamed on increased taxes, the smoking ban and, yes, online alternatives. 

In recent years, however, one of those factors has led to an unlikely bingo revival. Online gambling companies started to offer bingo and it attracted a new type of younger player – people who would have been reluctant to go to the bingo club with their parents or grandparents but were nevertheless intrigued to find out more about the game. 

We are now seeing similar offerings in India’s burgeoning online gambling market – take a look at https://www.gambleonline.co/en-in/casino/games/bingo/ for a few examples. Far from precipitating a decline in tambola, the internet could give it a shot in the arm to make it more popular than ever.  

Internet accessibility continues to improve across India. As it does so, the possibilities for bringing games like tambola to both new and existing players are almost endless. 

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