How to Run a Tombola

A tombola game is an excellent, tried and tested way to raise funds for your organization. In Italy tombola is a typical family game played at Christmas, like bingo, the English form so well known in the United Kingdom, Ireland and, under numerous forms, all around the globe. In Italy at Christmas Eve, playing tombola is an unquestionable requirement, with all the family members joined around by grandparents and little kids yelling when they win a prize (grown-ups generally don’t call a prize if there are youngsters around, to allow them to win).

Modern Tombola. Present day tombola cards are in plastic and have on the numbers little plastic spaces that can be shut down when the number is called, however customarily they were shut by beans (“fagioli”) or by bits of orange strip, that you needed to eat while playing. Fix a price for each card (ex. 1 dollar). The players purchase the cards, and one of the players purchases the “cartellone”.

How to play. The cash from the sale of the cards is divided into five prizes, from lowest to highest, with tombola being the big stake: 

the “ambo”, two numbers on a similar row 

the “terno”, three numbers on a similar row

the “quaterna”, four numbers on a similar row

the “cinquina”, five numbers on a similar row

the “tombola”, all numbers on the row

At that point the person who has the cartellone removes the numbers from the sack, each in turn, calling them loudly, and placing them on their box in the cartellone, and leaving time to the players to check the number on their card.

Things you need to play Tombola

  • Prizes: you need at least 30 prizes to make an attractive display. The number of prizes limits the number of tickets you can put in the tombola drum, so the more prizes you have the more people can play
  • Table: to display the prizes on
  • Raffle tickets (cloakroom tickets from stationery shops are ideal)
  • Volunteer to look after the stall
  • Tombola drum or something to draw the tickets out of
  • Float of small change 

Do I need a license to run a Tombola? You don’t need a licence if:

• The tombola takes place during the course of another event (e.g. fair or fundraising). All the tickets need to be sold and drawn during the event.

• You don’t spend more than £500 on prizes.

• You don’t spend more than £100 on other organizing costs of the tombola 


Decide what extent of tickets will be winners. For instance, you could make each fifth ticket a winner, or each tenth ticket. This choice will rely upon the type of your prizes and how much disappointment your customers can take! 

• Tear out each fifth (or tenth, or whatever) ticket from the book and join these winning tickets to your prizes. 

• Tear out the matching winning numbered tickets from the book of tickets, fold them up and put them in the tombola drum. 

• Tear out the losing tickets from the book (leaving their matching ones in there), fold these and add them to the tombola drum. 

• Decide how much each ticket will cost. Once more, this relies upon the amount you think your possible participants should spend, and how alluring your prizes are.

• Make sure you have a float and any signs you need to show by your stall. 

• Display your prizes on the table and ensure your customers can reach the tombola drum to draw out their tickets

Tombola doesn’t only bring enjoyment, but also brings the potential of earning. Try it!

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