Aneesh Kumar Kannan, John Varughese, Manu Karunakaran and Suneer Kuyyeri Meethal won Abu Dhabi Big Ticket raffle along with four other friends Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi

Why many people from south Indian state of Kerala win raffles in the UAE?

This is a common question going through everyone’s mind when winners of two most popular raffles are announced every month.

Of the 10 people who won the monthly mega prize (Dh5 million to Dh12 million) of Abu Dhabi Big Ticket during the past one year, seven were from Kerala. When two monthly draws (in July and October) gave away Dh1 million each to 20 people (10 each month), at least five of the winners were from Kerala.

Hari Krishnan, who won Dh12 million in Abu Dhabi Big Ticket raffle draw, with his wife, Nisha and son Karan

At least eight Keralites were among the 27 winners who bagged $1million (Dh 3.67million) each in Millennium Millionaire draw of the Dubai Duty Free during the past one year.

Indians’ regular win in these two lotteries are generally attributed to their number in the UAE. More than three million Indians constitute the largest expatriate community in the country. Although no official figures available, an estimated more than one million Keralites are the largest community among Indians.

These figures may reinforce the assumption that a large number of Keralites buy the tickets although the organisers of the Big Ticket and Millennium Millionaire draw of the Dubai Duty Free have not commented on this trend. They did not respond to request from Gulf News in this regard.

However, it is a known fact that Keralites have an inclination towards lottery.

Anil Varghese Theveril, who won Dh7 million in Abu Dhabi Big Ticket raffle draw, with his wife Renu Varghese and son Rohit Varghese.

Kerala was the first state in India to set up a lottery department in 1967, aiming to generate non-tax revenue for the state from lottery ticket sales, while providing employment opportunities to people as agents and retail salespeople. The department released its first lottery ticket on November 1 in 1967 with Rupee1-ticket carrying first prize money of Rupees 50,000 (Dh2,700) and the first draw took place after more than 60 days on January 26, 1968, according to the Directorate of Kerala State Lotteries.

Many other Indian states followed the suit soon. Kerala’s lottery department that celebrated its golden jubilee in 2017 now rolls out seven weekly lotteries (one daily) and six annual bumper lotteries on festive occasions.

Around 35,000 registered agents and 100,000 retail salespeople across the state find livelihood through ticket sales, according to the directorate.

On an average 9.5 million tickets are sold a day across the state, while the bumper lotteries (six a year) sell at an average of five million tickets each, according to a news report published by The Hindu, a prominent English daily in India.

Of the total revenue from ticket sales, 42 per cent goes to prize money for each draw, 32 per cent is paid as agent commissions, around five per cent for printing costs, etc and 20 per cent as profit to the government.

A lottery for charity, The Karunya lottery, launched in 2011 generates funds for patients who are unable to afford critical medical treatments. For this, the Karunya Benevolent Fund was launched and over Rs12 billion (Dh 648.36 million) has been raised from the ticket sales, said the report.

The senior journalist who wrote the report told Gulf News: “Lottery has become a part of Kerala’s culture.”

Lottery became a part of a popular culture within a few years after its launch in 1967 as a Malayalam film ‘Lottery Ticket’ released in 1970, was then a box office hit, said K. Pradeep, a journalist in English newspapers in Kerala for 27 years. “Films always reflect the popular culture,” he said.

The film opened with a song announcing the sale of lottery tickets by a lottery agent and it was very popular for many years.

Pradeep said the ticket buyers are from all sections of the society. Many middle-and upper class people also regularly buy the ticket. “A government employee had a hat-trick win recently. I wrote about a person who has been collecting lottery tickets for past 50 years — he was a central government employee!” he said.

However, critics say it is a lazy man’s game, causing dangerous addiction, Pradeep said. Still the lottery system survives because both government and people benefit out of it.

People buy the ticket because they trust the system run by the government, said the journalist.

Keralite winners in the UAE also said the same. “I was buying Abu Dhabi Big Tickets a year ago [until he won] , because I trusted it,” John Varughese, a driver in Dubai who won Dh 12million in April, told Gulf News.

“That’s why I continue to buy Abu Dhabi Big Ticket” he said. He said he continues to work as a driver because he does not want to leave the land that brought him luck. “I will bring my family here from Kerala once a year and will continue with this job,’ Varughese said.

 I had been buying Abu Dhabi Big Tickets for a year, because I trusted it. That’s why I continue to buy Abu Dhabi Big Tickets. I will bring my family here from Kerala once a year and will continue with this job.”

 - John Varughese | Driver 

Anil Varghese Theveril, who won Dh7 million in May, said he was sure that he would definitely win it one day. “I had immense faith in the system,” Theveril said.


History of state-run lottery in Kerala

■ 1967— Kerala lottery department established . November 1,1967— first lottery ticket introduced

■ January 26, 1968 – first draw held 2011— A lottery for charity, The Karunya lottery, launched

■ 2017 — Golden Jubilee of Kerala’s lottery department


State-run lottery in Kerala:

■ 7 weekly lotteries (one daily)

■ 6 six annual bumper lotteries

■ 35,000 (thirty-five thousand) registered lottery agents

■ 100,000 (one hundred thousand) retail salespeople

■ 5 million tickets each of bumper lotteries

■ 42% of revenue goes to prize money

■ 32% paid as agent commissions & 5% for printing costs etc.

■ 20% of revenue as profit to government.

■ Rupees 12 billion (Dh 648.36 million) raised from a charity lottery