Roll up… roll up!

Tombola Store is a relatively new venture offering punters the chance to buy multiple tickets at low cost to win potentially life-changing prizes. Said prizes range from simple gift cards to gadgets, rent bills and road tax pay-offs to cases of champagne and £1,000 Louboutin shoes, all the way up to luxury yacht charters and fantasy cars. Needless to say I plumped for Argos vouchers and an Xbox One when I had a go (I’m easily pleased!) but once all the tickets are sold, the tombola virtual drum will roll and… it could be me!
Should I pick up that dream prize I’ll not be quitting my job so I’ll keep you posted, but while waiting for that glorious day to come I caught up with founder and CEO, Paul McCourt, to ask about the formation of the company and the people that make it tick.

Casino International Online (COI): Tell us about the key personnel behind Tombola Store.
Paul McCourt (PMC): This is the first real step into egaming for me. My past positions include raising a logistics company from start-up to disposal. I tendered successful contracts with multi-national and international companies for logistics contracts, including valuable, high risk, high value and specialist products.
I was the first person to hold a logistics contract with the United States Government at their embassy in London. I was responsible for creating bespoke software for the management of internal movements of alien and U.S. citizen passports and for the collection and return of them throughout the U.K.
Rajesh Thakor [Tombola’s Managing Director] is a qualified accountant and has a BA honours in accountancy and finance. He is responsible for UK financial operation of Tombola Store. For the last ten years Raj has been involved with Post Office franchise operations. He has maintained an operation that is multi award-winning and has consistently remained as one of the top six operators in the UK. In addition to these franchise operations Raj has developed a chain of retail outlets and currently employs more than 100 staff.

CIO: Please explain how Tombola Store works…
PMC: In summary, Tombola Store is an online raffle with individual prizes that each have a set number of tickets available [prizes range from gift cards to iPhones to dream vacations and Range Rovers – Ed]. As soon as these tickets are sold the draw closes. This could be the same day as the prize is posted on the site. Once the draw is closed all players in the draw will be notified of the time the draw will be announced live on the site.

CIO: When was Tombola Store first conceived?
PMC: The idea was originally conceived in October 2010. The global recession made it difficult for most people to buy essential items let alone luxury items. It was the people’s hardship that was the driving force behind the idea; that’s why we decided to create a low cost transparent raffle whereby the players would be able to see exactly how many tickets were left and had clear odds on winning. The entry cost is very low in ratio to the value of each prize. Tickets are available for as little as a penny for some prizes and we cater for people’s most essential living costs as well as items they dream of owning.
 We have created a user friendly environment with prizes accessible to the general public at a fraction of their actual cost.
CIO: It seems more of a raffle than tombola. Any reason for going with ‘tombola’ branding-wise?
PMC: The definition of Tombola as described in the Oxford Dictionary is: “a game in which people pick tickets out of a revolving drum and certain tickets win immediate prizes, typically played at a fete or fair: entrance includes a tombola and raffle”. When the idea first dawned on me I wanted a word that would describe the game not only in the UK but that was relevant in other countries.
Taking one of the most traditional games and converting it from a manual draw to a fully automated electronic platform would be a way of reaching many people at any one time. The traditional tombola drum contained many tickets and was used to create winners for the multiple prizes on offer. By simply placing each prize in its own drum with a fixed number of tickets available, it would give people the chance to own the prize of their choice for a fraction of their actual cost.
CIO: How did you go about targeting the companies and products you wanted on the site?
PMC: We started off by looking at people’s survival needs, like basic groceries, and scaled it up from there, looking at both conventional products and also more unique goods that people would desire to own. 
CIO: Was it hard getting those products secured before you launched?
PMC: No – we’re not asking retailers to give big discounts so the reaction from all the suppliers to date has been positive. 
CIO: How do you keep customers interested when they may have to wait months for all 10,000 tickets to sell and the draw to be made?
PMC: There is no set closing date for each prize. The prize remains open only for the period that the fixed number of tickets available are outstanding. Prizes can be closed the same day as they are posted on the site, so this variation in the length of the game will keep people excited.
CIO: What have been the toughest problems to overcome bringing tombola to market? 
PMC: It has been a challenge on two fronts. Firstly was the technical side – how to present it and how to achieve functionality whilst at the same time being user friendly. Then there were the legal aspects to consider such as complying with the gaming act. Logistics is the least of our concern as we have a fantastic delivery network to use here in the UK. When it comes to payments our mind is also at ease. Our payment processor SecureTrading provides an incredibly complex and secure payment gateway so we’re confident that all customer details are fully safeguarded at all times.
CIO: What are your immediate plans?
PMC: In the next six months we will raise awareness of our brand by promoting our products in various ways including social media. We believe from our market research that the only barrier to success of Tombola Store is reaching market mass.
CIO: Where do you hope Tombola Store will be by next Christmas?
PMC: By the end of 2014 our plan is to have created numerous winners and turned their dreams into reality. We aim to sell more than £1 million of product helping to further stimulate sales and taxes with retailers that would not likely have been achieved directly in their stores.
Tombola Store is “a dream maker” and dreams are not always about the things we desire. They can also be closer to home such as winning a supply of groceries for a year, gas and electricity credits, council tax, rent and many more essential living costs that allow us the freedom to save or indeed put that surplus money into something special.
 We are the first transparent online raffle and we will maintain that ethos. We give people hope of winning things are a very low entry level. WE CAN MAKE PEOPLE’S DREAM BECOME A REALITY!