The United Arab Emirates has taken a significant step in shaping its commercial gaming landscape by officially creating the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA). This federal body has the monumental task of formulating a regulatory framework for the UAE’s national lottery and commercial gaming operations.
GCGRA’s Responsibilities and Unanswered Questions
The establishment of the GCGRA was announced through the UAE’s state-run news agency WAM and is set to become the cornerstone for all regulatory activities within the Emirates. This includes the key responsibility of handling licensing procedures.
However, many queries remain unanswered. For example, the kinds of gambling activities that will be permitted are still under wraps. More importantly, it’s unclear whether a UAE casinos component will be part of the equation. All eyes are also on the implications for Wynn Resort‘s $3.9bn casino development in Al-Marjan Island, Ras Al Khaimah.
Craig Billings, Wynn CEO, has stated that the licence for their Ras Al Khaimah project is expected imminently. However, it is uncertain if the establishment of a federal model will necessitate a fresh application from Wynn Resorts. Similarly, questions linger on the fate of existing raffles like Emirates Draw and Mahzooz, and whether they will fall under the purview of GCGRA’s lottery regulation.
Leadership and Consultancy
Leading the helm at GCGRA will be former Missouri Gaming Commission Executive Director Kevin Mullally. He brings with him 17 years of experience from Gaming Laboratories International (GLI). Jim Murren, former Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts will serve as the chairman of the board.
GLI has reportedly been the leading consultant for the creation of the UAE’s regulatory framework, along with input from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a research firm specialising in digital gaming. Their consultancy has successfully pushed for the federal approach to gambling regulation in the UAE.
Taxation and Legal Constraints
Notably, the UAE is planning a two-tier tax structure for the gambling market: 25% for mass-market gaming and 8% for premium gaming. This comes as the $3.9bn Wynn casino project is set to be finalised by 2027, of which 60% is owned by local partners. It is likely that GCGRA will be the authority granting the needed license, but procedural details are still unclear.
Currently, under UAE federal law, any individual caught gambling could face two years in prison and a fine of €12,600. The creation of GCGRA marks a significant shift in this stance, opening up the possibility for a more liberalised, yet regulated, gaming sector.
With the advent of the GCGRA, the UAE stands at the cusp of a new era for its commercial gaming sector, offering both opportunities and challenges for operators and players alike.
Explore these online casinos in the UAE
Players in the UAE can still play at internationally licensed online casinos. Here are some great options:
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