The United Arab Emirates might soon overtake Singapore to become Asia’s biggest iGaming hub. This follows a series of multi-billion gaming-related investments in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the past two years.
Although the UAE hasn’t announced it will legalize iGaming, insiders believe the country has plans to do so. Why else would Wynn Resort establish a $3.9 billion resort in Ras Al Khaimah?
For context, Wynn Resort is one of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas. It also owns a branch in Macau, China. That being said, Wynn is yet to confirm whether its upcoming hotel in RAK will offer casino games.
Wynn Resort aside, what does UAE’s investments in iGaming mean for the industry? Could we see a feature where Dubai is home to the best casinos in the world?
Legal Gambling in the UAE Might be in the Works
The UAE has been working on reducing its reliance on the oil business for years. It’s been investing in entertainment, real estate, and sports. Now, the country is expressing readiness in legalizing gambling.
As mentioned, the Emirates has already permitted Wynn Resort to construct a lavish hotel in Ras Al Khaimah. The resort, which will be located on the Al Marjan private island, will open in 2027.
The UAE has plans to license more gaming establishments. Two years ago, the country launched a gaming regulation department whose job will be to govern regulated resorts.
Regulated resorts in the UAE are hotels that provide accommodation, food, restaurants, spas, shops, concerts, conventions, and gaming. Similar to Wynn Resort, the UAE has been avoiding the term gambling because it’s illegal in the Koran.
More Middle Eastern Countries to Embrace Gaming
If the UAE legalizes gaming, it will be a matter of time before other Middle Eastern countries follow suit. The Emirates believes it could generate up to $6 billion from legal gambling.
With so much money at stake, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Qatar also legalized the sector. Saudi Arabia has been making big bets on gaming since 2018.
The country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund claims to have invested $38 billion in gaming companies located worldwide. Considering gaming is a $200 billion business, Saudi Arabia is a major stakeholder in the sector.
Although gambling is illegal in Egypt and Qatar, people in these countries still gamble online. They use offshore casinos even if it means masking their computers’ IP addresses with Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
To be fair, the Middle East isn’t the only oil-rich region with restrictive gambling laws. Texas is a case in point. The huge US state supports pari-mutuel betting on horseracing. It also features three tribal casinos.
Is online gambling legal in Texas? The short answer is no. The state does not license iGaming operators. However, it also does not prohibit its citizens from gaming through offshore casinos.
Global Casinos to Open in the UAE
Wynn Resort isn’t the first famous casino with a presence in the UAE. Caesars Entertainment made an entrance into the Middle Eastern Market with a non-casino hotel in Dubai in 2018.
Kerzner International, the company behind Atlantis Resort, has two lavish hotels in the UAE. Not to be left behind, MGM Resort is planning to launch a series of resorts in the Emirates. Notably, it will have one Bellagio Hotel and an Aria Resort in the country.
The UAE has been investing billions of dollars in projects that can increase local tourism for decades. By welcoming famous Las Vegas casinos, the Emirates is showing it intends to become a major entertainment hub in the region.
Truth be told, Vegas casinos aren’t opening projects in the Middle East to provide hotel services alone. They have credible information the UAE might soon legalize gambling. And when this happens, they want to capture the market before new competition arrives.
A New Platform to Nurture Gaming Talent
Europe and North America have always been the go-to place for top talents in the iGaming scene. This is about to change if the UAE keeps its word on investing more money in the sector.
The UAE is home to talented software developers, marketers, accountants, and players. But they’ve never had a platform that supported their skills. By liberating the online gambling sector, the UAE could open massive opportunities for people interested in working for gaming businesses.
Experts believe legal gaming in the UAE could add more than 10,000 jobs in the country. We’re talking about direct employment by casinos, hotels, and gambling sites. Indirect employment through digital marketing, blogging, delivery, and entertainment could increase career opportunities even further.
The best part of adopting progressive gaming laws is that it will also increase revenues for the country. The UAE has been finding new ways to make money besides selling oil. Legalizing gaming will play an important role in expanding its bottom line.
Enhancing a Safe Gaming Space
Banning gambling isn’t always an effective way in preventing people from doing it. Gamblers who are truly determined to bet online use foreign casinos, some of which are unsafe.
Creating an iGaming hub in the UAE will provide a safe gambling space for players in the country. They will have genuine places to play slots, blackjack, and poker. And by doing so, they will avoid the struggle that comes with using black-market betting sites.
Some offshore casinos are unlicensed and have unsecured websites. Others do not process your winnings when you win. Instead, they take away your money and close your account.
If the UAE legalizes iGaming, it will put in place measures to enhance a safe gaming environment. It will probably invite the best betting sites into the country. This way, players will have access to top-level games and bonuses.
The United Arab Emirates has been making moves that hint it could legalize gambling soon. But so far, it’s yet to provide clarity about when it will legitimize the industry.
Gaming experts in Dubai believe there’s a strong chance the country will legalize iGaming in the next couple of years. That’s why so many American casinos are opening resorts in the country.