UAE Takes Big Step Towards Joining Global Casino Market With Creation of Gaming Regulator

  • The GCGRA is tasked with creating a gaming sector regulatory framework
  • Experienced US casino sector figures have prominent roles in the new entity
  • Wynn Resorts is already planning a $3.9bn casino resort in Ras Al Khaimah
Person carrying UAE flag
The UAE has created a regulatory body that will be in charge of creating a framework for a legal gambling sector. [Image:]

A major step

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has set up a new federal body in charge of regulating its new gaming sector. It marks the latest step towards the nation potentially becoming the first Gulf state to introduce legal casino gambling, despite it being an Islamic country.

Local media announced the news on Sunday evening, noting that the main aim of the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) will be to create a “world-leading regulatory framework” for commercial gaming and a national lottery.

have not revealed any immediate plans to introduce legal casino gambling

While government officials have not revealed any immediate plans to introduce legal casino gambling, Bloomberg reported that lawyers, consultants, and casino operators close to the matter have said that early discussions have taken place.

Experience on board

Jim Murren, former MGM Resorts International CEO, is the chairperson of the regulator’s board. The new entity’s Chief Executive is Kevin Mullally, who has almost three decades of experience in the sector. He worked at the testing and certification firm Gaming Laboratories International for over 17 years and was once a Missouri Gaming Commission executive director.

The main tasks of the GCGRA will be to “coordinate regulatory activities, manage licensing nationally and facilitate unlocking the economic potential of commercial gaming responsibly.”

Experts estimate that a legal gaming sector in the UAE could generate as much as $6.6bn in annual revenue, eventually surpassing Singapore. The UAE has considered various forms of liberal reforms to maintain its position as a hub for finance, tourism, and trade in recent years.

Casino firms lining up

Interest has been building about the potential introduction of commercial gambling to the UAE. Wynn Resorts already has plans to develop a $3.9bn casino resort in Ras Al Khaimah, which is approximately 45 minutes from Dubai.

planned completion date of the property is 2027

Wynn will reportedly cover 40% of the development costs, with local government partners looking after the remainder. The planned completion date of the property is 2027. In an earnings call in August, Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings said that the company expects to receive a license in the near future.

Other casino companies have also started planting roots in the UAE. Caesars Entertainment has a non-gaming resort up and running in Dubai, while MGM Resorts has plans to develop a hotel and entertainment facility in the region.

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