The UAE has established a federal authority to regulate commercial gambling

On 3 September 2023, the UAE's state news agency WAM announced the establishment of the General Commercial Gambling Regulatory Authority (GCGRA). The new directorate is tasked with developing a regulatory framework for gambling and lotteries. The exact remit of this body has not yet been defined, but it is reported that it will coordinate regulatory activities, manage licensing at the national level and promote the responsible unlocking of the economic potential of commercial gaming.

  • The new body will be headed by US specialists: Kevin Mullally, who previously served as general counsel and vice president of government relations for a gaming company and has experience working for the Missouri Gaming Commission, will take over as chief executive officer. Jim Murren, former CEO of a US-based company that manages resorts and hotels with casinos in various American cities, has been appointed as chairman.
As a reminder, gambling is currently prohibited throughout the UAE, as well as in many other countries in the Gulf region, for a number of cultural and religious reasons. Participation in gambling is considered a criminal offence and carries a penalty of up to 2 years' imprisonment and (or) a fine, and for the organisers of gambling the responsibility is even more serious - up to 10 years' imprisonment. At the same time, the decision to create a state regulator of the gambling sphere can be considered as a first step towards legalisation of gambling or some of its forms.

The emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is expected to be home to the UAE's first casino: last year Wynn Resorts announced plans to build a gaming resort with a casino there, which will open in 2026. The GCGRA is likely to be the body that will grant Wynn Resorts a gaming licence.

It should also be mentioned that in some countries of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East gambling is still allowed (mainly for non-citizen tourists), for example, in Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon. Perhaps the decision to legalise gambling for tourists will be taken by the UAE authorities in order to attract tourist flow. In this case, each emirate will have the right to independently determine whether to allow gambling, and what exactly its forms. In case of legalisation of gambling, GCGRA will probably contribute to the development of the concept of "responsible gambling", which has become quite popular recently.

Thus, despite the tightening of gambling regulation in European countries in recent years, countries in other regions, on the contrary, are liberalising the gambling sphere. While the official decision has not been made yet, we are waiting to see if the UAE will be among them.

Original source.

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