Will gambling be allowed in the UAE?
International casino the owners set their sights on a new area: the United Arab Emirates
Ras Al Khaimah, one of the smallest and least known of the seven emirates, said earlier this year that it planned to legislate gambling in some resorts. On the same day, Las Vegas casino giant Wynn Resorts said it would build an approved resort for gambling, or gamblingon an artificial island.
These announcements could mark an important moment for the Gulf, a part of the Middle East that has traditionally more strict Islamic rules. The game has long been banned.
Currently, those looking to gamble go to Lebanon’s Casino du Liban or some Egyptian hotels.
However, times can change.
Two people with knowledge of the problem told Reuters that gambling in one form or another would be allowed in the United Arab Emirates. But, they added, it would be up to each emirate to decide whether and how to set rules on this – in the same way that Sharjah does not allow the sale of alcohol unlike other emirates. They also said the policy change would happen soon, without providing an exact date.
Casino and hotel companies that have set up shop in the UAE could advantage if Ras Al Khaimah paves the way for the other emirates.
Caesars Palace, which opened in Dubai in 2018 and is U.S. giant Caesars Entertainment’s only resort without a casino, told Reuters it would look into any possibility of offering gambling in Dubai.
About 10km along the Dubai coast from the Caesars resort, digging work has begun in another area to support a new resort by Las Vegas gambling company MGM Resorts International.
When asked if it would consider introducing games to the complex, MGM said “gaming has not been part of the planning and there are no updates to our plans. “.
The UAE government media office, as well as the emirate media offices of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, did not respond to requests for comment on Ras Al Khaimah’s plan to allow gambling and whether they plan to make similar changes.
The chance to play is being played out against a highly competitive situation in the Gulf, with the United Arab Emirates vying with Saudi Arabia to become a popular destination in a part of the world moving away from oil.
The United Arab Emirates, where foreigners make up 90% of the population, has already moved to other regions to remain the first to arrive advantage on Saudi Arabia.
The Emirates have moved to a Saturday-Sunday weekend this year to get closer to international markets. A Friday-Saturday weekend is common in many Muslim countries.
Over the past 18 months, the UAE has made legal changes, including decriminalize alcohol consumption and situations in which unmarried people live together.
The country has also found ways to offer gambling.
In 2020, it launched a national “Loto”. Players purchased a “collectible” image of a scene in the United Arab Emirates, such as the Burj al Arab hotel, for $9.50. Buyers were entered into a raffle. Now, players wishing to participate in the draw buy a bottle of water to donate to charity to win a first prize of 10 million dirhams.
Gambling is considered acceptable under Islamic law because there was an “exchange of value” when purchasing the collectible or bottle.
Ras Al Khaimah has stressed that its laws, drawn up by the recently created Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation, would incentivize responsible gambling.
The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority did not respond to questions from Reuters about how its plans would work alongside federal anti-gambling laws.
Vitaly Umansky, a gambling industry expert at investment firm Sanford C Bernstein in Hong Kong, suggested that gambling in Ras Al Khaimah would likely be restricted to foreigners.
I am John Russell.
Lisa Barrington and Farah Master reported this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it for Learn English.
words in this story
casino – nm a building or room used for gambling
resort – nm a place designed to provide entertainment and accommodation for vacationers
bet – v. play a game for money or goods
strict — adj. severe in discipline; inflexibly maintained or respected
advantage – v. be useful or beneficial to
advantage — n. superiority of position or condition
decriminalize – v. to repeal a strict ban on something while keeping it under some sort of regulation