June 14, 2024


After years of anticipation, the United Arab Emirates is poised to become the first Gulf state to legalize casinos, a move that could potentially generate nearly $7 billion in annual revenue. The nation has already established a federal body, led by gaming expert Jim Murren, the former CEO of MGM Resorts International, to oversee commercial gaming and a national lottery.

While there’s no certainty as to whether or not online gambling will be available within this jurisdiction, no definitive statements have been made thus far. So it might serve as a useful exercise for avid gamblers to take note of where to search for top tier online casinos offering no deposit bonuses. Usually, players opt for already-established operators and well-renowned affiliates like the official NoDepositTracker website, where plenty of reputable names are catalogued.

One Step Closer

This development has been eagerly awaited for quite some time. Speculation arose approximately 25 years ago when Dubai unveiled its iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, featuring a sail-shaped design just off its coast, with rumors suggesting that the top-floor bar was originally intended to be a casino and that gambling might be introduced in the emirate. Furthermore, this announcement comes roughly a month after Wynn Resorts, currently constructing a $3.9 billion gaming resort in Ras Al Khaimah—an emirate approximately 45 minutes from Dubai—expressed its anticipation of securing a license in the near future.

Introducing gambling would represent a significant departure for the UAE, a country where Islamic law, or Shariah law, serves as the primary foundation for legislation. Gambling is prohibited under Islam and is currently illegal in the UAE, with offenders facing potential fines, imprisonment for up to two years, or a combination of both consequences. Since the onset of the Covid pandemic, Dubai, the key tourism and business hub in the Gulf region, has witnessed an influx of hedge fund managers, sports stars, crypto players, and influencers.

Moreover, the city has emerged as a preferred destination for Russians, especially after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. To counter growing competition from neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Dubai has implemented a series of reforms to maintain its competitive edge. These changes suggest the possibility that playing roulette or blackjack may soon become available in the upscale hotels scattered throughout the city.


In early September, the UAE’s official news agency, WAM, announced the establishment of the GCGRA. Currently, individuals found engaging in gambling activities in the UAE could potentially face imprisonment for up to two years and a fine of AED50,000 (£10,699/€12,452/$13,615) under federal law. The formation of the GCGRA represents a crucial milestone in the progression toward a regulated gambling market in the UAE. Kevin Mullally, previously the executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission and boasting 17 years at Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), has been appointed as the GCGRA’s chief executive.

As previously mentioned, overseeing the GCGRA’s board of directors is Jim Murren, who served as the chairman and chief executive of MGM Resorts from 2008 to 2020. The specific regulations governing permitted activities in the country remain ambiguous, leading to inquiries about the potential inclusion of an online component for both bettors and operators. Furthermore, uncertainties persist regarding the oversight of the UAE’s existing raffles, Emirates Draw and Mahzooz, by the GCGRA.

Reports suggest that GLI, under Mullally’s leadership, played a pivotal role in the consultations shaping the regulatory framework for gambling in the UAE. In collaboration with GLI, the gaming consulting and market research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, known for its emphasis on digital offerings, has advocated for federal government involvement in gambling regulation, favoring a centralized approach over individual emirate responsibilities. Additionally, indications point to the UAE’s intention to implement a 25% revenue tax on mass-market gambling, while premium gaming would be subject to an 8% tax.

Ready to Capitalize

Wynn Resorts stands as the operator positioned to capitalize on the UAE’s introduction of a regulated gambling market, as it progresses towards establishing the region’s inaugural integrated casino resort. Currently under construction, the Al-Marjan casino project by Wynn is estimated to cost approximately $3.9 billion (£3.1 billion/€3.6 billion). Wynn holds a minority interest in this venture, with local partners owning 60% of the business.

Anticipated to open in early 2027, the Al-Marjan resort marks Wynn’s maiden venture in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, strategically located about 65 miles from Dubai, the UAE’s largest city. The resort’s offerings include a gaming area, 1,500 hotel rooms, diverse dining and lounge options, a spa and wellness center, a high-end shopping esplanade, an events center, an on-site theater, and a variety of other entertainment facilities.

Author’s Bio: 

Senior Writer and Contributing Editor Jenny Landsdowne, is responsible for creating detailed and unbiased casino and game reviews, so that gamblers are better able to make informed and responsible decisions. She and her team work tirelessly to scouring the web to find the best and freshest no deposit casino deals for existing and new players. In her free time, Jenny loves cooking, travelling and keeping fit. 



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