DUBAI 10 October 2020: In April of this year, Emirates Loto, a weekly cash raffle designed similar to many other lotteries around the world, was launched in the UAE.
Upon registering an account on the website or app, UAE nationals and residents would pay Dh75 for a ‘collectible’ – a card featuring prominent landmarks of the UAE, which could then be delivered or donated to charity. With each collectible purchased, players could enter a draw by selecting six numbers, just like any other lottery.
Emirates Loto was designed in this way to make it Sharia-compliant and it was approved by a fatwa issued by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments in Abu Dhabi.
As gambling is strictly forbidden, Sharia law states that there needs to be an exchange of value, so for Emirates Loto to be compliant, the purchase of collectibles allowed people to play the lottery. One collectible = one entry into the raffle/lottery.
While the creation of Emirates Loto led many to speculate that it could mean the start of a relaxing of gambling laws, that is simply not the case, so UAE residents will not be seeing poker and blackjack tournament strategy rooms springing up any time soon.
Emirates Loto was launched with an initial jackpot of Dh35 million and after a few weeks of unsuccessful tickets – although quite a few players landed portions of the Dh1m prize for five correct numbers – that was raised to Dh50m.
Emirates Loto proved extremely popular, with tens of thousands of participants tuning in each week to see if they were going to win life-changing sums of money. Ultimately, that Dh50m jackpot remained unclaimed and after less than three months, it was announced that Emirates Loto was suspending its weekly draws.
The Emirates Loto website now has a message that reads: “We are temporarily pausing the sale of our collectables and our weekly draws as we undergo a planned system upgrade. We will be back soon with a fun and exciting player experience. A go live date will be announced soon.”
While not giving exact dates over the proposed relaunch, Emirates Loto aims to be in operation again “later this year”. As to the plans for the relaunch, the website simply claims they “are always exploring innovative ways of enhancing our customer journey to make it a seamless and enjoyable experience. So, expect a more customer centric and convenient experience on our return”.
So, what does that mean exactly? Here is a look at ways Emirates Loto could relaunch with a more “fun and exciting player experience”.
Fix the App
First and foremost, Emirates Loto needs to make sure the app and website is fully functional. Despite only being open a matter of weeks, players constantly complained that they were unable to purchase collectibles and enter the weekly draw, sometimes days in advance. The problems only got worse on Saturdays – the day of the draw – with the website often showing that collectibles had sold out.
Solving these issues has to be the priority for Emirates Loto and is likely one of the driving forces behind why they decided to suspend activities and relaunch later in the year.
Variety of Draws
After its initial launch, Emirates Loto had one weekly draw to play. As national lotteries around the world have shown, branching out into new lottery games can be beneficial both to the lottery operators and the players.
Emirates Loto could consider creating other games where the collectibles are cheaper, and the jackpot is lower. This would make Emirates Loto more inclusive and allow players who were unable to spend Dh75 a week on the main lottery the opportunity to play.
Improved Customer Service
As mentioned above, Emirates Loto experienced plenty of technical issues, but what made it worse was that it was so difficult to contact anyone to get an answer or provide assistance. The Twitter account was barely operational and when someone did reply it was with a generic response that failed to address the customer’s concerns.
Likewise, there was little help provided on the website and the hotline to call either went unanswered or did not connect at all.
Improving customer service should be another upgrade that Emirates Loto should be focusing on ahead of the relaunch. There should be an engaging and helpful social media team to assist customers, a live chat on the website, and trained staff on the hotline.