Casinos uae

Casinos uae


UAE Gaming Regulations: All You Need to Know in 2024

The UAE has long been known for its prohibition on gaming (e.g., casinos, betting, etc.). While this is still the case, the last year has shown a clear shift in the country’s gaming regulations. In 2023, the UAE introduced a new regulatory body called the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), which is supposed to oversee all types of commercial gaming. This step signals changes to come in the UAE’s longstanding position on gaming over the next few years. 

Is gaming now legal in the UAE?

Gaming is illegal in the UAE on religious grounds, which forbid such practices. Accordingly, this prohibition includes card games, slots, roulette, and other gambling activities—in addition to online casinos. According to the UAE Penal Code, the penalties may vary from fines of up to AED 20,000 (approximately $5,445) to two years of imprisonment. The penalty for organizing gaming activities is up to ten years in prison. 

However, it should be noted that certain practices resembling gambling are allowed in the UAE, including betting on camel racing. Still, such activities are strictly regulated by the government. 

Gaming regulations and compliance

The UAE has established a new regulatory body called the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), which consists of a variety of lawmakers from countries such as the United States. According to WAM, the UAE’s state-run media, the goal of the new authority is to “create a socially responsible and well-regulated gaming environment, ensuring that all participants adhere to strict guidelines and comply with highest standards.”

If the gambling industry is legalized in the UAE, it will likely bring more tourists to the country. After all, 9% of the country’s GDP comes from the tourism sector. Therefore, the government may decide to permit such activities in specifically designated areas, such as cruise ships and hotels. 

Prior to the establishment of the GCGRA, gaming companies were already working with the UAE government. In particular, casino and hotel giant, Wynn Resorts, has signed a deal to build a hotel in the UAE, which will potentially include a designated gaming area. However, this development may be only possible if changes are made to the UAE’s regulations, making it possible for gaming to be licensed and legalized. 

What’s next?

At the moment, companies are awaiting drafts and proposals from the GCGRA, after which a regulatory framework may be established with clear rules and regulations on casinos in the UAE. 

To get the scoop on the future of the UAE’s regulatory framework, Joseph F. Borg, Head of Innovative Technology Advisory (Gambling, Gaming, Esports, Fintech, Blockchain, IoT, AI, TMT) and Co-Head UAE Desk at WH Partners, responded to the most vital questions regarding the GCGRA and gaming in the UAE.

Why were US specialists chosen for GCGRA? 

The fact that now there’s an authority that has been set up by the UAE at the federal level is a positive step, and it’s a confirmation that the industry will eventually get regulated. How this will happen is, however, a different story. It’s definitely not a situation where one can speculate about the number of licenses or kinds of gaming that will be regulated. Still, it’s clear that there seems to be a model that’s being created in the UAE. It’s based on the US philosophy of gaming, which is about the commercialization of gaming. 

One has to consider that the chosen experts have previously provided consultancy services to governments all over the world. So, it’s not just a philosophical move, but also the best strategy available. 

What should a gaming company that wants to start a business in the UAE be prepared for? 

I don’t believe that the regulatory framework will be an “open for all” framework. I believe that it will be a very limited and highly regulated environment. That’s why I don’t think we will see a massive number of operators obtaining licenses there. Still, the top companies that are interested in getting licenses in the UAE should start preparing themselves. They should identify what services they are planning to offer and start engaging local partners with whom they can find necessary solutions. It’s also important to make their intentions known to the authorities. This will help them to be kept in the loop on the regulatory developments. And obviously, they should find specialised advisors to assist them with the process. 

Will the regulation include casinos in hotels, liner cruises and online gaming? 

I’m pretty sure that the preferred solution will be to have casinos in hotels and this will emulate the Singapore model. There will probably be resort type venues, rather than simple casinos dispersed around the country. I believe that eventually there might be something related to the cruise liners, but the first step is hotels. I’m convinced that online gaming will be legalized as well. Again, it’s too early to speculate on the procedures and the number of licenses. There will definitely be regulated lotteries, casinos, and sports betting. Possibly even other forms of gaming. 

How long will it take to draft the law, and how it will change the UAE economy?

The drafting process can take anywhere between a few months and a couple years. Legislation may also come in piecemeal with different types of activities regulated at different times. It will depend on a number of factors. I believe we will see the first version very soon. Still, it will take more time to implement the draft law and grant the first license. I’m expecting that by Q1 of ext year, we will have more information about the situation and expect to see the first draft by then. Maybe we will even see the first operators to start the process of obtaining the license. 

I believe that this move puts the UAE in a very interesting position both economically and culturally. This move gives another dimension to the entertainment options in the country, attracting tourists and creating many new jobs. I am sure this will also bring a lot of suppliers, such as software providers. This will come as a result of the attractiveness of the jurisdictions. Therefore, this is a fascinating move by the UAE and we will see interesting results in the next few years.

Sumsub will keep updating this page as the new developments get introduced. So, if you want to stay up to date with the gambling regulations in the UAE, save this guide.


  • Are casinos legal in the UAE?

    At the moment, both online and land-based casinos are illegal in the country. This includes all traditional types of gambling activities, such as card games, roulette, etc.

  • Is online betting legal in the UAE?

    Online betting is illegal in the country.

  • What is the penalty for gaming in the UAE?

    According to the UAE Penal Code, gambling activities may result in fines not exceeding AED 20,000 (approximately $5,445) or even two years of imprisonment. Organizing such activities can lead to ten years in jail.

  • Will Dubai legalize gaming?

    The UAE has taken the first steps towards the process by establishing a new regulatory body called the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA). Yet, it’s still not clear whether or how the gaming industry will be legalized.