The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken a significant step towards the creation of a regulated casino market with the establishment of the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) in September 2023. This move paves the way for the legalization of gambling in the country, which has previously been subject to strict penalties for those found gambling.
The GCGRA, announced by the UAE’s state-run news agency, WAM, is responsible for creating a regulatory framework for the national lottery and commercial gaming. The appointment of Kevin Mullally, a former executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission, as the GCGRA’s chief executive, and Jim Murren, former chairman and chief executive of MGM Resorts, as the chair of the board of directors, signals the serious intent of the UAE to enter the gambling market.
Previously, gambling in the UAE was punishable by up to two years in prison and significant fines. However, the GCGRA’s creation indicates a shift towards a regulated gambling market, with questions remaining about the inclusion of online gambling and the regulation of existing raffles.
According to sources, GLI, a gaming consulting and research firm, has played a significant role in the development of the UAE’s regulatory framework. The firm, along with Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, advocated for federal-level gambling regulation instead of leaving it to individual emirates, suggesting a broader approach to gambling in the country.
One company looking to capitalize on the potential of a regulated gambling market in the UAE is Wynn Resorts. The company is in the process of constructing the Al-Marjan casino, the first integrated casino resort in the region, with expectations of opening in early 2027. Wynn chief executive Craig Billings has expressed confidence in securing a license for the resort and has emphasized the growth potential of the UAE as an exciting new market opening.
With the GCGRA’s creation and the development of major gambling projects in the country, such as Wynn’s Al-Marjan casino, it is clear that the UAE is positioning itself for entry into the global gambling market. As the country continues to set the stage for a regulated casino market, all eyes are on the developments leading up to the groundbreaking ICE show in 2024.