UAE to Legalize Casinos, Aims for Competitive Edge in Gulf Tourism

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken a groundbreaking step to become the first Gulf country to legalize casinos by establishing a federal structure to regulate the gaming industry.

According to state media reports released yesterday, a new authority is being set up to provide a “regulatory framework” for the lottery and commercial gaming sectors. Last month, American casino and hotel operator Wynn Resorts announced plans to build a $3.9 billion gaming facility in the UAE, stating it expected to secure a license “soon.”

Experienced Industry Leaders Appointed

The Emirati News Agency (WAM) revealed that Jim Murren, the former CEO of American hospitality and entertainment company MGM Resorts International, will head the new regulatory board. Kevin Mullally, with nearly three decades of experience in the gaming industry, will serve as the executive director of the new organization, responsible for coordinating regulatory activities and managing national-level licensing.

This move to permit gambling is a significant change for the Sharia law-governed nation, where gambling is currently punishable by fines or up to two years in prison. The country is also looking to be competitive in tourism with its Gulf neighbors.

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Potential for Significant Revenue

According to calculations by Bloomberg Intelligence’s senior gaming and hospitality analyst, Angela Hanlee, the UAE could generate up to $6.6 billion in annual gaming revenue. If the UAE’s gaming revenue reaches 1.6% of the country’s national income, similar to that of Singapore, it could exceed $6 billion.

The legalization of casinos could further bolster the tourism sector, a cornerstone of the UAE economy. (Sözcü)

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