Prize draw firms compete to be UAE's sole operator

Mahzooz and Emirates Draw confirm they are in the mix for official lottery licence

Zenobia from India and Serhii from Ukraine, the last Mahzooz draw winners of 2023, pictured with Suzan Kazzi, centre, head of communications and CSR at Ewings, managing operator of Mahzooz. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Prize draw companies in the UAE have applied to become the country's sole operator, senior figures from the firms confirmed.

Both Mahzooz and Emirates Draw have registered their intent to run the national UAE prize draw, with one licence up for grabs. The news comes after the announcement that prize draw firms had to stop operating last week until further notice.

Suzan Kazzi, head of communications and corporate social responsibility at Ewings, which manages Mahzooz, said she was confident the company met all the regulatory requirements to be the new operator and would soon be back up and running.

“We are optimistic for several reasons," said Ms Kazzi, speaking at a press conference in Dubai on Friday. "We have a proven track record of changing people’s lives through Mahzooz’s excellent performance for the past three years.

"Our customer base, infrastructure and the team of international experts can immediately start the new operations as soon as we are given the green light."

Mahzooz, along with Emirates Draw, put operations on hold to comply with instructions from the authorities.

It was business as usual, however, for other firms such as Big Ticket and Dubai Duty, which continued to sell tickets.

But Ms Kazzi said: "We ceased our sales on January 1, 2024, as directed by the regulators in line with our values of integrity and transparency.

"We recognise the value in the regulators’ efforts towards creating a regulated and responsible gaming environment in the UAE.

“We are expecting to know the result before end of the first quarter of this year."

Emirates Draw is also in the race to become the nation's official prize draw operator.

"We have completed the application process and are very hopeful of being awarded the national lottery licence from the UAE Gaming Regulatory Authority [GCGRA)]" said Paul Chader, head of commercial at Emirates Draw.

"In less than three years, Emirates Draw has distributed over Dh168 million in prizes to more than 800,000 winners.

"Backed by a loyal customer base, a robust infrastructure and a team with over 200 years of collective global expertise, we're confident that our solutions lead the way in the global gaming landscape."

The National has contacted the GCGRA for comment.

New millionaires

Two UAE residents were lucky enough to win big before the newly imposed ban came into effect, both taking home Dh10 million in the last Mahzooz draw of 2023.

Zenobia, a 67-year-old Indian grandmother, and Serhii, 33, from Ukraine, started the new year by sharing the top prize of Dh20 million ($2.7 million).

Both their surnames were withheld by organisers for security reasons.

“I was thrilled,” Zenobia said. "It was shocking to win the major prize.

"I will use the money to travel abroad for vacation with my family and two granddaughters."

Married with a daughter, son and two grandchildren, she has lived in Dubai for 33 years and has taken part in the Mahzooz draw since 2021 with dreams of becoming a millionaire.

Serhii, who works as an operations manager for a construction company in Dubai, said he has not yet decided what to do with his winnings.

“I will freeze the money in my bank account for at least a year,” he said. "I want to process this and realise what has happened to me."

He said he was speechless and shocked when he received the confirmation call.

“I have participated in Mahzooz for years and usually I win small prizes such as Dh35 or Dh100," he said. "I saw the email and thought I might have won a small prize again.

"The next day I received a call congratulating me for winning Dh10 million."

Serhii has been living in the UAE for a decade, working to support his family. After receiving news of his win, the first thing he did was call his parents in Ukraine on January 1 to tell them that he was now a millionaire.

“It is a dream come true but nothing changes for me," he said. "It is a bounce to make my life easier."

Updated: January 12, 2024, 5:59 PM