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Man wins island resort in a $49 raffle: How well does that work? (+video)

A New South Wales resident hit the jackpot – literally. For the price of a new iPod, he is now the owner of a 16-room tropical resort after winning a raffle contest that drew thousands of entrants. 

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    The Nautilus resort on the Micronesian island of Kosrae just passed into new ownership after a raffle designed by the outgoing owners in this YouTube screenshot from an ad for the resort.
    Kosrae Nautilus Resort in Micronesia/YouTube
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Some contest entrants would consider themselves lucky if they won a gift basket or a puzzle in a raffle. But for an Australian man, identified only as Joshua, the stakes were much higher.

Joshua’s was just one of 75,485 tickets purchased for $49 (US) each in a raffle with the ultimate prize at stake – a tropical resort called the Nautilus on the Micronesian island of Kosrae. Joshua will soon take over the management of the 16-room resort from its current owners, the Beitz family.

“We look at ourselves as everyday people – we weren’t highly educated people when we came here, just average, basic people,” said Doug Beitz, the resort’s former owner, in an interview with news.com.au, “and we think, with the raffle, we can hopefully leave the island in the hands of someone who’s not a millionaire, but in the hands of someone who’s just like us.”

Joshua read about the raffle while reading the news at work one day. In the end, he purchased three tickets, including the one that won him the Nautilus.

“What started as a simple click of a news article during my lunch break that piqued my interest,” Joshua told news.com.au, “has resulted in a life-changing experience that I could only dream of.”

The Beitz family moved to Kosrae to build the Nautilus resort in the 1990s after parents Doug and Sally watched a documentary on Micronesia and began to wonder whether there was more to life than their nine-to-five careers.

“We figured that, if it all failed, we were young enough to start over again,” said the Beitz family on their website. “On the flip side, the prospect of getting to retirement and wishing we could turn back time – feeling the bitter sting of that regret – just frightened us so much we knew we had to take a chance.”

When they first arrived on the island, Doug and Sally had three young children and no experience with resorts. On the resort’s website, the family writes that the first years on the island were more difficult than they are today – it was initially difficult to get many food items that the family now takes for granted, for example.

The family is currently working with Joshua to help him learn the ropes at the resort. When they leave, they will be walking away with $4.1 million in Australian dollars.

People all over the world have emailed, Doug and Sally told news.com.au, to thank them for the opportunity to dream afforded by the raffle.

Although the story of this island raffle seems to be rosy thus far, other similar contests have had very different outcomes.

One well-publicized essay writing contest that took place last year for the deed to a historic bed and breakfast in Lovell, Maine, ended in frustration and threats of legal action.

The bed and breakfast’s owner, Janice Sage, took over the Center Lovell Inn from its previous owners, Bill and Susie Mosca, in 1993 through a similar contest. Last year, Ms. Sage decided that the time was right for her to move on from the Inn, so she instituted a contest of her own.

The rules were simple: Write a 200-word essay describing your qualifications as a bed and breakfast owner and mail in a $125 application fee. Well over 7,000 applicants sent Sage their applications, and in the end she chose Roger and Rose Adams, a couple from the US Virgin Islands who seemed to have the skills necessary to run a tight ship at the Inn.

That should have been the end of it, but the outcry at Sage’s selection was so great that the Maine State Police were forced to investigate, in order to determine that the contest was carried out in an above-board manner.

Unsuccessful applicants criticized the essay’s structure and alleged that Sage prearranged to have the Adams couple take over the Inn instead of selecting them on the strength of their essay.

The previous inn owners, the Moscas, also faced criticism when they released the results of their essay contest in 1993.

The (now former) owners of the Nautilus resort on Kosrae have not yet faced any backlash. The response has instead been largely positive.

“We’ve been getting emails from people all around the world thanking us for giving them a dream and something to look forward to,” Doug Beitz told news.com.au. “One lady who just emailed said she didn’t even care if the raffle was drawn – she was just happy to have something to look forward to.”

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