UAE's Bold New Bet: A Move Towards Legalizing Gambling?

In a significant move, the UAE is paving the way for introducing commercial gaming, potentially adding a new dimension to its tourism sector, reports CNN.

by Faruk Imamovic
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UAE's Bold New Bet: A Move Towards Legalizing Gambling?
© Getty Images Entertainment/Tom Dulat

In a significant move, the UAE is paving the way for introducing commercial gaming, potentially adding a new dimension to its tourism sector, reports CNN.

Setting the Gaming Board

This Monday, the UAE heralded a new chapter in its tourism industry by launching the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA).

Comprising experts from the illustrious casino and gambling domain of the United States, the GCGRA aims to introduce a regulatory framework tailored for a national lottery and commercial gaming. The Emirati state media, WAM, confirmed the news, emphasizing the potential benefits: "[GCGRA will] facilitate unlocking the economic potential of commercial gaming responsibly”.

It’s worth noting the two industry stalwarts recruited to spearhead this endeavor. Kevin Mullally and Jim Murren will steer the ship as CEO and chair of the GCGRA, respectively. Mullally, expressing his enthusiasm about the role, mentioned, “I look forward to establishing a robust regulatory body and framework for the UAE’s lottery and gaming industry”.

Cruise Liners and Casinos: A Match in the Making?

The move towards potentially legalizing gambling in the UAE could spark significant interest from the global cruise liner industry, especially giants like MSC and Royal Caribbean Cruise.

With casinos on board, these ships frequent the UAE’s ports. However, the current regulation in the UAE waters prohibits any form of gambling, causing casinos on these liners to halt operations while docked. Dubai, branding itself as the “cruise hub of the region,” boasts an impressive 1,750 cruise ship visits annually.

In another nod to the growing prominence of the cruise tourism sector, the UAE's capital, Abu Dhabi, recorded a whopping 700,000 cruise tourists between May 2022 and 2023.

The Road Ahead

This initiative by the UAE doesn't come out of the blue.

Global casino companies have already shown interest in the region. Last year, Wynn Resorts signed a deal for a luxury resort in Ras Al Khaimah, featuring a designated “gaming area”. In addition, Caesars Entertainment, a renowned name in the casino world, has been operating a non-gambling hotel in Dubai since 2018.

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