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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - In many instances groups of people have won the raffle.
Every month on January 3, Indian expat Mubarak Mohammedali and a group of 20 friends stay glued to the Facebook page of the Big Ticket Abu Dhabi. By 8pm, they are high on hope and optimism. They believe they are minutes away from becoming richer by millions.
But as soon as the results are out, their WhatsApp group aptly called 'Big Ticket' buzzes with memes and jokes about lady luck ditching them - for the umpteenth time.
"It is a craze. We don't give up just because we don't win. There is always another time," Mohammedali, a planning engineer in Dubai, told Al Khaleej Today.
Mohammedali says him and each one of his friends pool in Dh50 every month and buy three Big Tickets.
"We have been doing this for the last two years. Every month we buy without fail. But we have not won anything yet. But someday, we hope we will walk away with a few millions."
When it comes to gambling with luck, Mohammedali is not alone. There are hundreds and thousands of raffle-crazy expats in the UAE who spend a few hundred dirhams every month in the hope of winning in the lottery.
Arif Mohammed, another Indian expat in Dubai is one such. He has been at it for 15 years and not yet willing to give up.
"I have been buying the Abu Dhabi Big Ticket and Dubai Duty Free raffle for the last 15 years without fail. Even after so many years, I have not given up hope," said Mohammed, 52. "You can win only if you buy. I am part of at least seven different groups that buy raffle tickets every month. So, my chances of winning are seven times higher," said Mohammed.
Likewise, Brijesh Pal from Delhi says he has been buying the Dubai Duty Free raffle ticket every month for the last seven years. Pal , a Business Improvement Manager, told Al Khaleej Today. When asked how much money he would have spent on raffle tickets, Pal had a retorted positively. "It is yet to happen," "I know I must have spent a lot of money on raffles. But if I win someday, then I get it all back. So, it is worth it," says Pal.
Raffle draws are both a marketing blitz and bait that lure both tourists and residents alike. Some of the high-profile raffle draws like the Dubai Duty Free and Abu Dhabi Big Ticket offer staggering amounts of money like $1 million or up to Dh10 million dirhams. And they attract millions of avid buyers from all over the world. The daily raffle draws of the Dubai Shopping Festival held at the Global Village and the 1kg gold raffle are also hugely popular. There are also many million-dirham draws hosted by banks and saving schemes like the National Bonds that millions sign up in the hope of winning. UAE's shopping malls also run year-round promotional offers where shoppers can enter into raffle draws if they spend a minimum amount.
But what motivates people to keep buying raffle tickets knowing that their chances of winning is between razor-thin and rare?
Many regular buyers say the stories of random people turning millionaires overnight through raffle draws, is their biggest motivation. "Every month when we see an average expat or a taxi driver or an accountant winning a few million dirhams. That helps us keep dreaming that next could our turn," said Filipino expat Jay Mendoza, a sales executive in Abu Dhabi.
"I buy tickets every other month. I earn less than Dh4000 and it is my dream to win a raffle and go back home rich," said Mendoza.
Trying luck in a group
Some raffle tickets like Dubai Duty Free and the Abu Dhabi Big Tickets costs anything between Dh1000 to Dh500. And not everyone can afford to buy them. So many people prefer to pool in money and jointly buy a ticket. In many offices across the UAE, there are raffle groups of ten, twenty or even fifty people contributing money to buy monthly raffle tickets. In many instances groups of people have won the raffle.
"I cannot afford to spend Dh500 to try out my luck. So, we have a group of 50 people and we all contribute Dh5 each every month for the Abu Dhabi Big Ticket. So, it does not hurt at all," said Reza Ali Khan, an Afghani taxi driver.
He said there are several groups in his accommodation and almost everyone is part of the pooling system. "The only way we can make it big is by winning a lottery. My dream is to build a house for my parents and children and I can do it only if I win a lottery. So, what is the harm in trying?," asks Khan.
Anjana Sankar is a journalist by profession and a humanist by passion. Her cluttered desk is not indicative of her state of mind.
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