HomeGamingUAE Establishes General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority

UAE Establishes General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken a significant step towards allowing gambling in the country by creating the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA). The move comes as major casino operators show increasing interest in the Gulf Arab nation. The state-run WAM news agency announced the establishment of the regulatory authority, appointing Kevin Mullally, former executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission, as its CEO.

In a statement, Mullally expressed his enthusiasm for the role: “I am delighted to have been appointed as the inaugural CEO of the GCGRA. With my experienced colleagues, I look forward to establishing a robust regulatory body and framework for the UAE’s lottery and gaming industry.”

The primary objective of the GCGRA is to create a socially responsible and well-regulated gaming environment, ensuring strict adherence to guidelines and the highest standards. The authority will coordinate regulatory activities, oversee national licensing, and facilitate the responsible unlocking of the economic potential of commercial gaming.

While casinos have long been rumored as a means to raise funds and boost tourism in the UAE, concrete steps towards their establishment have remained elusive. Duty-free car raffles have become a regular feature at Dubai International Airport, but speculation about casinos has persisted. A 2004 US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks suggested that Dubai’s casino plans were put on hold out of respect for the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the country’s first president.

However, recent developments have fueled speculation, with projects involving prominent casino firms such as MGM, the Bellagio, and Aria underway in Dubai. The QE2 ship was transformed into a floating hotel in 2018, retaining its deactivated slot machines, while Caesars Palace Dubai opened its doors the same year. Ras al-Khaimah, the UAE’s northernmost emirate, also announced a multibillion-dollar agreement with Las Vegas-based casino giant Wynn Resorts in 2022.

While authorities in Ras al-Khaimah have refrained from explicitly mentioning gambling, Wynn Resorts has described the project as involving the “subsequent management of an integrated resort.” The concept of an integrated resort, popularized in Singapore, typically encompasses a hotel with a casino and various other amenities.

The potential legalization of casinos in the UAE could significantly boost its lucrative tourism industry, aiding in the recovery of Chinese travelers lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bloomberg estimates that the UAE’s gaming revenue could reach $6.6 billion annually, potentially surpassing Singapore.

The creation of the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority suggests that Abu Dhabi, the country’s capital, will oversee the operations of potential casinos. However, it is important to note that the UAE’s power structure grants considerable authority to the local rulers of its seven emirates, particularly concerning social matters. For instance, the emirate of Sharjah currently prohibits the sale of alcohol. Therefore, any future casino operations may follow a similar pattern, adhering to the rules and regulations set by the respective emirates.

In conclusion, the establishment of the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority in the UAE marks a significant development in the country’s potential for a gambling industry. As major casino operators show interest and projects continue to surface, the UAE’s tourism sector could witness a substantial boost, providing new economic opportunities while adhering to strict regulatory guidelines and responsible gaming practices.

Aniedi Ekwere
Aniedi Ekwere
Author/Consultant Find More Africa/AA Advisory, We provide betting reviews, thought leadership articles in the emerging markets, business development on products/ platforms in Africa with solid networking relationships with gaming operators in Africa, and Expertise in PR and marketing communication, and iGaming Consulting Services.

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