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UAE Establishes Federal Gaming Regulator

The UAE has introduced a raft of liberal legal reforms as it tries maintaining itself as the regions trade, tourism and financial hub. The state-run news agency WAM announced that the UAE has established the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), which will be headed by the former Missouri Gaming Commission executive Director, Kevin Mullally. Mullally has also recently spent 17 years at Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), a company that offers compliance evaluations, inspections, and certifications of gaming machines, software, peripherals, slot devices, and wireless equipment. Furthermore, the former MGM Resorts chairman and CEO, Jim Murren, will chair the board of directors.

The GCGRA will be tasked with establishing the regulatory framework for the UAE’s lottery and gaming industry, but the question on whether the existing Emirates Draw and Mahzooz will be regulated by the GCGRA remains. Allegedly, GLI took the lead on consulting on the creation of the regulatory framework along with gaming consulting and market research firm, Eilers & Krejcik Gaming (EKG). EKG has previously been more involved in digital offering which has led to speculation that there are plans for an online offering for gambling as well. The consultants pushed for federal regulations rather than for individual emirates to be responsible for their own regulations of the industry. According to iGamingBusiness, the UAE intends to tax revenues of mass market gambling at a rate of 25%, and premium gaming at a rate of 8%.

At the moment, Article 414 and 415 of the Penal Code states that whoever gambles shall receive a fine up to AED 20,000 or a prison sentence up for up to 2 years, and anyone who opens up or runs a place for gambling shall receive a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years. Even international cruise ships have to stop any gambling activities within the vessel whilst docked in the UAE and resume once out of the Emirates’ waters. Article 121 states that a foreigner or tourist caught gambling shall have strict action taken against them, this could be deportation, a custodial penalty or both.

The establishment of this body was no coincidence, the prominent Las Vegas casino developer Wynn Resorts is expected to open a luxury resort and casino on Al Marjan Island, Ras Al Khaimah in 2027. This will be the first casino opened in the UAE, and according to the Wynn CEO, Craig Billings, the first to receive a gaming license from the GCGRA. Another prominent Las Vegas hotel chain Caesars Palace already runs a resort without a casino in Dubai, and MGM Resorts International is also developing a resort in the country.

Hassan Malik