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Bollywood balls

A new gambling website is attempting to merge bingo with Bollywood as it looks to target the British Asian market. Gareth Bracken has been evaluating its prospects

The love of gambling held by many in Far Eastern communities is well-known. Those of oriental origin can be found in casinos up and down the country and the popular gambling game Mahjong was invented in China. Interestingly, gambling is not so strongly associated with the South Asian community. With this mind, the new Bolly Bingo website has been launched, marketed at British Asians.

“The Asian community were keen to see what was available in the gambling arena, but no-one was fulfilling this,” says Barry McGovern, managing director of Bolly Bingo. “We looked at the numbers and realised there was a big potential market.”

Bolly Bingo features more than 60 games, including slots, bingo and video poker. Anyone is welcome to play at the site but the focus is clearly on attracting Asian customers. This could be prove a smart move, according to Dr Bhaskar Mukhopadhya, lecturer in Postcolonial Studies at Goldsmiths. “Nowadays, South Asians like ethnic fetishes – ethnic is chic,” he says, adding: “I would imagine that there would be demand for Asian-focused gambling among Asians here.”

That’s certainly what McGovern found when exploring the idea. “We did research on the Asian communities’ likes and dislikes,” he says. “We found that for some Asians gambling is actually a social past time.” This belief certainly challenges the suggestion that gambling is a taboo in the South Asian community, a notion that Dr Mukhopadhya also rejects. Speaking about gambling’s place in Indian culture he says: “There is no blanket ‘taboo’ on gambling. Ordinary people do a lot of petty gambling in weekly marketplaces, fares and festivals.”

This all sounds promising for Bolly Bingo then, although McGovern does admit that not all Asian communities will support the new site. “Some aspects of Asian religion and culture prohibit gambling. The Muslim religion, for example, doesn’t allow gambling. People did put this to us and some told us they wouldn’t use the website. Everyone has their own choice and that’s fine.”

Overall, though, the response has been good. “We held street campaigns to get people’s feedback and also incentivise them to try out the service,” McGovern explains. “The reaction was very positive. This was helped by the fact that it wasn’t purely gambling.” He is referring to the Bollywood content the site hosts, which includes film trailers and soundtracks. “Bollywood is very popular, it’s a big draw,” he says. “We’re currently looking into creating relationships with some Bollywood stars. We hope to announce something soon.”

The idea is to make Bolly Bingo not only a gambling site but also a cultural and community focal point. The chat box option is another element of this, with McGovern explaining that he hopes the film content and range of games available will stimulate chat, allowing the boxes to “take off”.

The signs are certainly encouraging and McGovern feels that this sort of targeted-gaming is the way forward. “If you provide solutions that focus on a particular community you have a better chance of success,” he states. He has considered the potential risks as well, adding: “Like anything we do we have to be careful not to be patronising to those we’re targeting.” He needn’t worry too much though, according to Dr Mukhopadhya, who says that the British Asian community “like” this sort of tailor-made content.

McGovern believes that Bolly Bingo has created a “unique opportunity for the Asian market” and the combination of gambling and cultural ethnic content is certainly innovative. The proposed introduction of a Bollywood star would generate even more interest and could really allow the site to push onwards and upwards.

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