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UAE Unveils New Regulatory Body in New Next Step to Legalize Gambling

Cover image for post UAE Unveils New Regulatory Body in New Next Step to Legalize Gambling
UAE Unveils New Regulatory Body in New Next Step to Legalize Gambling
UAE Unveils New Regulatory Body in New Next Step to Legalize Gambling

Amidst the shimmer of opulent resorts and the allure of its famed horse racing circuit, the UAE is gearing up to deal a fresh hand in its tourism offerings — commercial gaming.

Marking a significant shift this week, the UAE announced the establishment of a dedicated regulatory entity to steer commercial gaming. Comprising casino and gaming connoisseurs primarily from the U.S., this move is significant as the nation’s current legal framework, rooted in Islamic principles, prohibits gambling.

This newly minted organization, known as the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), aims to lay down the groundwork for “a national lottery and holistic commercial gaming ventures,” as highlighted by the UAE’s official news agency, WAM.

In a statement, WAM emphasized that the GCGRA’s mission is to “responsibly harness the vast economic opportunities within the realm of commercial gaming.”

Seasoned professionals, Kevin Mullally and Jim Murren, have taken the reins of the GCGRA as CEO and Chairman respectively. Their combined expertise spans over three decades in the gaming arena. While Murren previously spearheaded MGM Resorts International, Mullally has been affiliated with various roles at Gaming Laboratories International.

Upon his recent appointment, Mullally expressed, “I’m eager to shape a formidable regulatory infrastructure tailored for the UAE’s emerging gaming and lottery sector.”

In related news, the previous year witnessed Wynn Resorts sealing a deal to construct an upscale establishment in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, hinting at a “gaming precinct.” The specifics around the gambling element remain ambiguous; however, Wynn Hotels’ CEO, Craig Billings, hinted at an upcoming gaming license for their Ras Al Khaimah enterprise.

Billings assured stakeholders, stating, “The gaming proposition for the property does not hinge on an extensive legalization process.”

While renowned entities like Caesars Entertainment have managed a non-gaming hotel in Dubai since 2018, the potential legalization of gambling could beckon major cruise corporations, including MSC and Royal Caribbean Cruise. These liners, equipped with onboard casinos, currently have to adhere to the gaming ban within UAE territorial waters.

Positioning itself as the region’s “cruise capital,” Dubai welcomes approximately 1,750 cruise vessels annually, with Abu Dhabi recording a staggering 700,000 cruise enthusiasts between May 2022 and 2023.

Tourism, a cornerstone of the UAE economy, contributes about 9% to its GDP. Drawing a parallel to Singapore, where gaming attributes to 1.6% of the GDP, the UAE’s foray into this sector could potentially generate an impressive $6.6 billion annually, as suggested by recent insights from Bloomberg.

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