United Arab Emirates takes giant stride towards legal gambling

Wynn Resorts planning UAE casino
Wynn Resorts planning UAE casino
Wynn Resorts is one of a number of gambling companies looking to enter the UAE industry. (Photo: CNN)

In a significant move that hints at the potential legalisation of gambling, the United Arab Emirates has established a federal body designated to oversee a national lottery and “commercial gaming.”

This decision comes as major casino operators eye the Gulf Arab nation for possible expansion, however it is unclear if this enthusiasm extends to online casinos.

The state-operated WAM news agency announced the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority late Sunday. However, specifics regarding its functioning and structural framework remained scant.


Heading the newly-formed authority is CEO Kevin Mullally, known for his previous role as the executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission, which managed the riverboat casinos of the USA state.

“With my experienced colleagues, I look forward to establishing a robust regulatory body and framework for the UAE’s lottery and gaming industry,” Mullally said.

The announceent also stated that Jim Murren is chairman of the authority’s board of directors. Reports from Nevada, where the gambling hub of Las Vegas is located, identify Murren as the ex-chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, a key casino operator.

Highlighting the mission of the new authority, WAM emphasised its intent to foster a “socially responsible and well-regulated gaming environment” and ensure adherence to stringent guidelines.

Rumors have long swirled around the possibility of casinos being introduced in the UAE to amplify its tourism sector. Despite the fact that Islam prohibits gambling, casinos are operational in countries like Egypt and Lebanon.

The UAE’s introduction of real money casinos might serve as a pivotal strategy to boost its thriving tourism sector, particularly in attracting Chinese tourists.

The formation of a central governing body implies the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, will be instrumental in guiding any casino operations within the nation. Each emirate in the federation has its unique rules and customs, such as Sharjah, where the sale of alcohol is prohibited. A similar structure might apply to any future casino operations.

Wynn Resorts announced last year it was expanding its operations in the UAE, and has began the construction of a new gambling venue.

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