The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has established a federal gaming body that will create a regulatory framework for a national lottery and commercial gaming across the Gulf Arab nation, according to a report by the state-operated Emirates News Agency.
“The General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority [GCGRA] will create a socially responsible and well-regulated gaming environment, ensuring that all participants adhere to strict guidelines and comply with the highest standards,” the report said. “It will coordinate regulatory activities, manage licensing nationally and facilitate unlocking the economic potential of commercial gaming responsibly.
“GCGRA will be led by a team of internationally credentialed leaders, all with proven track records and a deep understanding of global best practices in regulating and maintaining an effective, safe and responsible gaming industry.”
Kevin Mullally will be CEO of the GCGRA. He brings more than 30 years of experience in national and international gaming regulation, according to the report. Mullally’s resume include stints at Gaming Laboratories International and the Missouri Gaming Commission, according to his LinkedIn profile. Gaming industry veteran Jim Murren will be the chairman of the new body, the report added.
The decision to establish a federal gaming body could pave the way for gambling and casinos in the Gulf state, where gambling is currently illegal.
The possible arrival of casinos comes at a time when the UAE is looking to diversify its economy as well as attract increasing levels of foreign direct investment. The country is also keen to maintain its reputation as a tourism hotspot in the Middle East.
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“There is significant opportunity to attract tourism, given the UAE’s easy accessibility to a large proportion of the world’s population and the lack of a major gambling destination in the region,” said Justin Alexander, director at Khalij Economics, a Gulf-focused economic consultancy. “[The] legalisation of gambling, with limits and controls, also serves the broader purpose of differentiating the UAE from Saudi Arabia.”
The new federal entity also comes as Wynn Resorts, one of the world’s largest casino operators, prepares to open its landmark project in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), the Wynn Al Marjan Island, in early 2027. Wynn Resorts first announced the multi-billion-dollar project in January 2022.
A federal gaming authority will likely prompt other emirates, such as Dubai, the UAE’s commercial and tourism hub, to welcome international casino operators. It is likely they will be paying close attention to what kind of reception RAK’s experiment will receive among locals and tourists.
“Dubai is likely a far larger market, but RAK has ambitions to develop its own niche in the market and views the launch of a casino as a potential game changer in its own tourism plans,” said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute.