Emirates Loto – a new weekly raffle with a jackpot of Dh35 million – will hold its inaugural draw on April 18 after it was postponed from March 28 to align with the UAE government’s precautionary measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The draw will be live-streamed on digital platforms at 7.30pm each Saturday, but without a live audience as originally planned.
"We're going to follow the government guidelines, so whatever comes out, we'll adapt to the changes," Paul Sebestyen, chief executive of Emirates Loto, told The National. "Our plan is to have the drawing on the 18th, unless the government informs us otherwise."
Mr Sebestyen said the lottery, which could go up to as much as Dh50m on May 9, is a “break for the community” at a time when many people across the globe are following stay-at-home directives and consumed by concerns about the spread of the virus.
The jackpot is one of the largest offered in the UAE. Abu Dhabi Duty Free’s Big Ticket, which was live-streamed on Facebook last month and this month, offers a Dh10m prize, while the Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire’s top award is $1m (Dh3.67m).
New travel restrictions were imposed in Dubai on Saturday with residents asked to stay at home unless they need to leave for food or medicine, as the sterilisation programme is extended to 24 hours a day for two weeks.
There are 1,505 confirmed cases in the UAE – three times the number last week. Ten people have died and 125 recovered. Worldwide there are more than 1.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and about 65,000 deaths as of Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the pandemic. More than 252,000 have recovered.
To participate in Emirates Loto, anyone over the age of 18 in the UAE and abroad can purchase “collectable” cards for Dh35 either on the website, through the app or at Choithrams supermarkets. Previously the cards could be purchased at more than 10,000 retail outlets, but most stores – with the exception of supermarkets and pharmacies – were closed last month to control the coronavirus outbreak. There are courier charges of Dh15 in the UAE on online card purchases; Dh35 in the GCC, Levant and North Africa; and Dh50 in the rest of the world. Buyers also have the option to “donate” their cards, but still participate in the draw.
Each card allows the buyer to generate six numbers (1-49) through the Emirates Loto website or app. The live event will be hosted by Lebanese TV presenter Wissam Breidy and Indian entrepreneur Aishwarya Ajit. Mr Sebestyen said the studio taping will follow physical distancing guidelines and “have as limited people as possible”.
Three number matches will give the buyer a free entry to the next draw, four number matches give Dh300 and five number matches Dh350,000. If all six numbers match, the buyer can win a share in a minimum jackpot of Dh35m, which will be divided equally among all winners.
If no one matches the six numbers drawn, the prize will increase by Dh5m every week until it reaches Dh50m.
Emirates Loto has been approved by a Fatwa issued by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments in Abu Dhabi no 205/2020, according to its website. As per Sharia principles, there needs to be an exchange of value, hence why draw participants must purchase the collectable cards.
The images on the cards will change every quarter. There are currently eight cards with pictures of iconic UAE sites, including Burj Al Arab in Dubai and Capital Gate in Abu Dhabi. Participants have the option to buy the collectable cards and decline the option to enter the draw.
Emirates Loto has been in the works for a little over a year, Mr Sebestyen said. The organisation is currently in discussions with charities to donate a portion of the proceeds.
“We’re raising funds to change lives, not only for the people who are lucky enough to have won, but also for the money that will be donated to charities and other organisations for people in need,” he said.