UAE forms federal authority for commercial gaming, moves closer to permitting casinos

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has established a federal authority that will reportedly manage the national lottery. It is described as “commercial gaming” which suggests that the country is potentially planning to permit gambling, opening itself up to casino operators.

The authority is named as General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), as per national news agency Wam News.

Kevin Mullally, former executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC), has been named as the CEO of the gaming regulation authority. During his time at the MGC, Mullally was responsible for the state’s riverboat casinos.

“I am delighted to have been appointed as the inaugural CEO of the GCGRA. With my experienced colleagues, I look forward to establishing a robust regulatory body and framework for the UAE’s lottery and gaming industry,” Mullally said in a statement.

Jim Murren, former chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, was named as chairman of the board of directors for GCGRA. Previously, MGM Resorts International, under Murren, worked on developing a CityCenter in Las Vegas in partnership with Dubai World.

The WAM release stated that the gaming authority will create a socially responsible and well-regulated gaming environment. All participants in an event or entity regulated by GCGRA will have to follow strict guidelines and comply with the highest standards.

“It will coordinate regulatory activities, manage licensing nationally and facilitate unlocking the economic potential of commercial gaming responsibly,” it further added.

The changes can potentially pave the way for more casino firms to enter the UAE and obtain operating licences. Most recently, Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings revealed that they are getting closer to securing a license in the Gulf Arab nation.

While there is still a lack of clarity on legalization of gambling in the country, the recent move does come as a positive sign for casino resorts. If Wynn Resorts is able to secure a licence, it will become the first-ever casino resort in the UAE.

Meanwhile, countries in the region such as Egypt and Lebanon already have casinos. While allowing casinos does carry risks of money laundering, proper regulation can keep the potential issues in check. The permits can lead to a boost in tourism and generation of additional revenue.