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What Are UAE Gambling Laws? – A Present and Future Outlook

Poker chips
Credit: Unsplash / Chris Liverani

Is gambling permitted in the United Arab Emirates? What games can visitors actually play?

These questions prompted us to dig deeper into the legal status and framework of this type of activity to inform visitors on what they are allowed to do in the UAE and what is strictly forbidden.

But, first, let's see why it's essential to check out the legislation before you commence your trip!

Get familiar with gambling laws when you travel!

It’s crucial to get to know the gambling laws attached to each travel destination right when you set out on your journey. We advise you to read the legal framework and take the necessary precautions before you depart on your adventure.

Since gambling is a grey area in some parts of the world, it’s best to inform yourself beforehand regarding its legal status. That includes the types of games you are allowed to indulge in and, of course, the minimum age you must have to take part in this activity.

Suppose you are unaware of these rules and you unknowingly do something that is considered illegal. In that case, you may face serious legal consequences.

UAE gambling laws – current provisions

First and foremost, gambling is banned in the United Arab Emirates. Its government falls under Islamic law, and this activity is considered a sin from a religious point of view.

Here, we take into account Slots, Blackjack, Roulette, Poker, Baccarat and other table games that you may usually find within a land-based casino. As a matter of fact, this is the reason why there aren’t any brick-and-mortar casinos in the UAE.

What happens to players if they gamble?

Gambling is considered an offence whether you play at a casino or among friends. According to the Penal Code, those who break the law should expect a substantial fine or even detention for up to two years.

What happens to those who open a casino?

The punishment for those who actually run a casino is even harsher. The maximum sentence can go up to even ten years in prison.

There is, however, a beacon of hope for those who wish to pursue such forms of entertainment.

Legal gaming activities

Even though gambling, in the broader sense of the word, is punishable by law in the UAE, there are some activities that players can delve into without any legal consequences.

For instance, several types of competitions are permitted, such as camel racing, where players can make bets. Bear in mind, though, that these betting activities may vary tremendously from traditional betting and are under close supervision of the government.

Is online gambling also banned?

In short, yes.

The gambling activity per se does not depend on the location where you conduct your gameplay, so online casino use is also strictly forbidden.

Yet, some players would still opt for VPN usage to gain access to these sites. There are multiple variants free to download that aren’t so easy to be spotted by the strict Internet services. However, this is very risky, and players may very well face serious legal consequences.

Moreover, online casinos condemn and reject the use of such software. Most go as far as restricting your access to their gambling platform or all casino sites pertaining to the specific company (if that’s the case). This means that if, for example, you go on vacation or even move out to another location where gambling is legal, you will still be blocked and won’t be able to access that site entirely

Reasons why gambling is forbidden

Red dice
Credit: Unsplash / Terry Vlisidis

As stated earlier, the main reason why gambling is considered an offence is religion. The legal framework heavily relies on teachings from Quran, which considers this activity a sin.

This ban also comes as a protection against the possible onset of gambling addiction. Many countries throughout the globe struggle with this condition, as its physical and psychological repercussions, can last a lifetime and be irreversible.

This illegal status of gambling ultimately resumes to morality and the ability to win money fairly. Some table games indeed imply the use of certain strategies and skills to win.

Yet, most of them heavily rely on luck. Therefore, all winnings derived from these types of games are considered ‘easy money’.

The future of gambling in the UAE

According to the latest updates, the legal status of gambling is settled in the United Arab Emirates. But, as much as the law tries to maintain and even impose stricter rules, there is still room for rumours.

For example, last year, a rumour stipulated that Dubai was releasing gambling licenses, which was later debunked and denied by the Government of Dubai.

More recent news revealed that Casino Wynn struck and dealt in the UAE and will build a multibillion-dollar resort. Besides the common spas, pools, restaurants, and other facilities, the company announced that the resort would also include a special place for ‘gaming’. We have yet to see what ‘gaming’ really entails in the context of the current legislation. It is said that the entire construction will be done and will open its majestic doors by 2026.

As you can see, there are some advancements in this area to at least gather legal gambling activities in one place. However, stringent rules may apply, and the availability of such games could potentially become even steeper.

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