UAE Forms General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority Amid Wynn Casino Plans

Published September 9, 2023 by OCR Editor

UAE Forms General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority Amid Wynn Casino Plans

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken a significant step in regulating its emerging gambling industry. The government recently announced the establishment of the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), fueling speculations about the country's future gambling landscape.

In a move that signals the country's intent to regulate commercial gaming more formally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has officially created the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA). Announced late on Sunday, 3rd September, via the UAE's state-run news agency WAM, the new authority is tasked with coordinating regulatory activities across the Emirates, including managing licensing for national lottery and commercial gaming.

Kevin Mullally, a former Missouri Gaming Commission executive director, will helm the GCGRA as its inaugural Chief Executive Officer. Alongside him, Jim Murren, who led MGM Resorts as chairman and CEO from 2008 to 2020, will chair the organization's board of directors. Both executives were eager to develop a robust regulatory framework for the UAE's burgeoning lottery and gaming industry.

Though the announcement marks a pivotal moment, numerous questions still loom over what form the UAE's gambling regulations will ultimately take. There is ongoing speculation over what types of gambling will be allowed and whether an online component will be included in the framework.

Another area drawing intense scrutiny is how this development impacts Wynn Resort's $3.9 billion casino project on Al-Marjan Island in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. While Wynn CEO Craig Billings had stated that the resort's license was to be issued "imminently," the unveiling of a federal model raises questions about whether Wynn will need to reapply for its license under the new authority.

The establishment of the GCGRA also coincides with Wynn Resorts beginning construction on its ambitious Al-Marjan casino project. Slated to be completed by 2027, Wynn holds a minority stake in the venture, with local partners owning 60% of the business. While the GCGRA will likely provide Wynn with its license, the specifics of how this will operate in practice remain undefined.

Further insights reveal that consultancy firms Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) and Eilers & Krejcik Gaming have taken the lead in advising the UAE government. They advocated for a federal approach to gambling regulation, which has been adopted. According to sources, the UAE plans to implement a 14% revenue tax on mass-market gambling, while premium gaming will be subject to an 8% tax.

As it stands, UAE federal law stipulates severe penalties for engaging in gambling, including a two-year prison sentence and an AED 50,000 fine. Establishing the GCGRA is a signal of changing attitudes. It raises questions about the future of gambling in the UAE, especially as international companies like Wynn Resorts look to make substantial investments there.

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