Legal gambling could finally arrive in the United Arab Emirates as the country just unveiled the creation of a federal authority that could potentially operate national lotteries and commercial gaming. The announcement came late Sunday when the state-owned Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) will be launched for this purpose. Further information about the operations and structure of the regulatory body is yet to be released. According to the state-owned news agency, the former Executive Director of the Missouri Gaming Commission, Kevin Mullally, was chosen as the first Chief Executive Officer of the newly created gaming authority.
James Murren will reportedly take on the position of chairman of the regulatory body’s board of directors. Murren previously chaired the Nevada-based gaming and hospitality company MGM Resorts International, which operates several casinos in Las Vegas, including Mandalay Bay, Park MGM, and Bellagio. Mr. Murren already has experience in working with the authorities of the Arab country. The former MGM Resorts chair collaborated closely with UAE officials during the development of the Aria Campus urban complex, a joint project of Dubai World and MGM Resorts that opened doors to customers in 2009.
Additionally, Mr. Murren was tasked with the coronavirus response in the Silver State several years ago when he proposed the implementation of Emirates-donated testing kits manufactured in China. Documents acquired by the Associated Press revealed Nevada officials were warned by US diplomats against using the testing kits in question due to their inaccuracy. Security and patient privacy were also a concern at the time, due to the potential involvement of China’s government.
GCGRA Will Help Create Adequately Regulated Gaming Environment
According to the Emirates News Agency, the primary incentive behind the creation of the GCGRA is to provide an adequately regulated gaming environment that would guarantee all participants comply with tight guidelines and uphold the highest industry standards. The body will help create coordination between the different regulatory responsibilities. Additionally, the GCGRA will oversee the licensing process and ensure licensees operate in a socially responsible fashion.
The launch of commercial gaming has long been considered a viable way to help boost the local economy and attract more tourists to the UAE, especially to Dubai. Rumors about casino gaming arriving to the country have been circulating for several years now. The Ras Al Khaimah Emirate unveiled a partnership with Wynn Resorts last year for the construction of a lavish hotel complex. While the Ras Al Khaimah government did not expressly state the complex will feature a gaming floor, the Vegas-based gambling giant described it as an “integrated resort”, a term that refers to a resort that typically houses a casino, among other amenities.
Legal commercial gaming, and gambling in general, is a rarity in countries from this region mainly for religious reasons as Islam strictly prohibits the participation in such activities. However, this has not prevented countries like Lebanon and Egypt from introducing legal and regulated casino gaming on their territory. The establishment of a federal regulatory body gives the impression the Emirates’ capital Abu Dhabi could oversee the possible operation of commercial gaming venues in the UAE.
This could enable the country to regain the Chinese tourists it lost as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The main stumbling block results from the fact that sheiks have absolute power over the affairs in the corresponding emirates they govern. Sharjah, for example, prohibited alcohol consumption in the late 1970s and industry experts warn commercial gaming might follow the same pattern.