LAST WEEK, the Dubai Duty Free’s Millennium Millionaire Promotion celebrated its 15th anniversary. Since its inception in 1999, the $1-million lucky draw has created 166 dollar-millionaires from 29 countries—the maximum number being from India. Of the 166 winners, no less than 78 have been Indian nationals or people of Indian origin working in the Emirates. The youngest Indian winner has been Rabia Manzil Asharaf, a 22-year old, who won her $1-million prize in 2013 with a ticket numbered 4,993, supposedly a lucky number. The millionaire promotion has, so far, paid out close to $200 million and is a comparatively recent innovation by Dubai Duty Free (DDF), one of the the world’s biggest duty-free operations, and among the most profitable. The original DDF attraction was the Finest Surprise Promotion, launched in 1989, which gave passengers, or those in transit via Dubai, the opportunity to win a luxury car. It is the longest-running duty-free promotion in the world. With tickets on sale for $139 and limited to 1,300 coupons, ticket holders have a chance to win a luxury car: a BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Porsche or Audi.
However, for special supercar series, including Bentley, Audi R8, McLaren and Aston Martin, 2,300 coupons are available costing Dhs500 or $139. A recent winner was Ramnath Balakrishnan, an Indian national living in Dubai, who drove away with a McLaren MP4 12C Coupe, one of the world’s most desirable sports cars, and among the most expensive (approximately $250,000). Since its launch, more than 1,600 travellers from 68 different countries have driven away their own set of extravagant wheels as grand-prize winners. A fairly recent addition has been a draw for superbikes. Last April, Francisco Fernandes, 33, an Indian national living in Dubai, won a Ducati Streetfighter 848. Fernandes was catching a flight to Djibouti when he bought the ticket. The cars and the cash, however, are what draw in the punters. The hook is the limited number of tickets available—a current draw at Dubai airport is restricted to 1,000 tickets, with a black BMW 750 Li on offer to the prize-winner.
To attract more customers, DDF opened up the draw to online punters. Of 135 winners for the cash prize, over 30 were those who bought over the Internet. As part of its winners’ package, Dubai airport flies lucky ticket holders in business class to Dubai and puts them up in a luxury hotel for a celebratory