Dubai, UAE — In a groundbreaking move, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is setting the stage for a revolutionary step in the Gulf region’s entertainment and tourism industry. The UAE has officially established the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), a federal body designed to oversee and regulate commercial gaming and national lotteries in the country. The news has stirred up quite the buzz, given that gambling has been largely restricted in the conservative Gulf states.

A Stacked Deck of Experienced Leaders

At the helm of the GCGRA are industry veterans from the United States—Kevin Mullally and Jim Murren. Mullally, the newly appointed CEO, has a seasoned history in gaming regulation, having served as the executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission and spent 17 years at Gaming Laboratories International. Murren, taking the chair of the board, was the former CEO and Chairman of MGM Resorts between 2008 and 2020.

Both expressed their excitement and commitment to creating a “fit-for-purpose” regulatory framework that will ensure a “socially responsible and well-regulated gaming environment.”

Taxing Times Ahead

The word on the street is that a new tax structure is also in the works. The UAE government is said to be planning a 25% revenue tax on mass market gambling, while premium gaming could be subject to an 8% tax. How this will be applied on Arabic casinos online is yet to be established.

Online Betting in the Cards?

Speculation about an online component to the new gaming landscape is making rounds. With Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a consulting firm with a strong focus on digital offerings, involved in advisory roles, there’s chatter that online gaming or iGaming might just become a reality.

The Wynn-ing Move?

With this new regulatory setup, question marks have emerged surrounding Wynn Resorts’ ongoing $3.9 billion casino development on Al-Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah. Will Wynn (WYNN) have to reapply for its licence? And how will this regulation interact with existing raffles like Emirates Draw and Mahzooz? Only time will tell.

Economic Potential & Concerns

This monumental change is seen against a broader backdrop of economic competition, especially with neighbouring Saudi Arabia. With a potential to rake in an estimated $6.6 billion in gaming revenue annually, the UAE could significantly boost its tourism industry.

However, it’s not all fun and games. Critics point out that the introduction of large-scale commercial gaming could pose risks related to money laundering. Plus, how this move reconciles with Islamic teachings, which forbid gambling, remains a hot topic.


Whether you’re a fan of blackjack, intrigued by the spin of a roulette wheel, or curious about iGaming, the UAE is clearly upping the ante. Though many questions remain unanswered, one thing’s for sure. The UAE’s gamble could well change the face of entertainment and tourism in the Gulf region.

Stay tuned as we keep you updated on this unfolding story, and remember, always gamble responsibly.

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