Is Gambling Legal in the Middle East?
Is gambling legal in the Middle East? That depends on the specific country. The Middle East is a region that consists of multiple countries. Thus, the governing bodies are different in each country. As a result, the legality of gambling also varies. Thus, this article highlights whether gambling is legal in Middle Eastern countries. In turn, you can make sure you gamble safely if you travel to any of the countries in this region.
Middle East Countries
The Middle East is not a continent. Instead, it’s a region typically used by Western Europeans. It typically refers to countries in southwest Asia and northeast Africa.
So, here’s a list of the Middle East countries.
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
Something to keep in mind is that laws change with time. Thus, the rules may have changed when this article was written and published. So, look up the betting laws in a specific Middle Eastern country before you try to use an online casino.
Betting in Dubai
Dubai is a popular tourist destination in the Middle East, with various attractions. However, betting is unlawful in this city of the UAE.
So, is online gambling legal in Dubai? No, offline betting and online gambling are illegal in Dubai, despite being one of the richest cities in the world. Thus, you cannot play betting games or bet on sports in this city.
That said, there may be a legal vetting venue in Dubai’s future, as stated by CNBC. Moreover, non-natives of the UAE may be allowed to play betting games using foreign bookmakers.
However, the officials have plans to make gambling possible by 2026 to win the intense competition against the rapidly-opening Saudi Arabia. In fact, Dubai officials allowed for the first casino to be built in the Arab Region, where gambling has been off-limits. In addition, an official gambling regulator – (GCGRA) – led by former MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren was established by the UAE government and tasked with introducing a regulatory framework for commercial gaming as well as a national lottery. It means that by 2026, we can expect a lot of big brands in the gambling industry to compete over the huge fresh gambling market in the Middle East region.
According to the operator teams, the UAE’s first-ever casino will be constructed on a man-made island off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah and will welcome players in 2026. The famous luxury Wynn Resorts will build this casino in UAE. According to the operators, the casino will be somewhat larger and more luxurious than Wynn Las Vegas. Although Ras Al Khaimah and Wynn announced in January 2022 that the casino was licensed for gaming without specifying gambling, the news is a significant breakthrough for other casinos to be built in the region in the near future.
According to Bloomberg, industry insiders, consultants, and lawyers familiar with the matter, the UAE is taking a huge step toward legalizing casinos, which means the country will be the first in the region to legalize gambling. For this reason, the gambling industry is expecting the UAE to become a new gambling Hub and surpass Singapore.
With the competition getting fierce between UAE and Saudi Arabia to lead the region, we can expect the Gulf region to take less strict approaches toward gaming and gambling to win the tourism and economy competition.
No Casino in Dubai, YET!
At the time being, there is no physical casino in Dubai because laws do not permit any form of gambling. So, can you bet in Dubai? No, you cannot. Betting on horse races is also illegal. But things are rapidly changing, and we expect legalized gambling to be available in the UAE as soon as Wynn Al Marjan starts operating.
Gamers in Dubai may be able to gamble in online casinos. However, online gambling is prohibited in Dubai and other parts of the UAE. However, some people still bet online in the UAE because it’s harder to be caught.
Is gambling legal in UAE? Dubai is in the UAE. Thus, the gambling laws in Dubai are the same as those in the rest of the UAE. So, it is illegal to gamble in the UAE.
Betting in Iran
Are there casinos in Iran? No, there are no casinos in Iran. In addition to that, online casino websites are blocked in this country.
Can you gamble in Iran? You can bet in Iran, but you will be breaking the law if you do so. So, keep that in mind if you plan to visit the country. Offline betting on horse racing does occur in Iran and is allowed because it is considered to predict which horse will win. Viewers can bet on horse racing in the Golestan region. Predictions also occur with archery and camel racing.
Betting in Saudi Arabia
Online and offline betting is illegal in Saudi Arabia. So, there are no casinos where you can bet money and win. That said, horse racing and camel racing raffles do exist in Saudi Arabia.
Does Saudi Arabia have a casino? No, there are no traditional casinos. However, the famous beach resort that is known as a kind of casino hotel in Jeddah is called Al Murjan Hotel of Jeddah. There are no conventional casinos in Saudi Arabia. Instead, there are Belote clubs that also host Belote tournaments.
Belote is a card game that’s played with 32 cards 2 to 4 players per game. The game is played casually and may be played for gambling in some instances. Besides, people do online gambling in Saudi Arabia even though it is illegal in the country. Some online casinos accept players from that region, such as Betway, 1XBet, and 888 Casino.
Betting in Iraq
You cannot gamble in Iraq. So, are there casinos in Iraq? No, due to the prohibition of gambling, there are no cases in Iraq. Moreover, it is illegal for websites in Iraq to have any gambling games on them. These gambling games include poker, lottery, or sports betting. Still, residents try to use VPNs to play at websites that accept Arab players such as 1XBet.
There are casinos in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, but they do not operate legally. There are also nightclubs in Iraq, with HERA Club and Inferno Erbil popular choices in Erbil. Casinos in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah are openly accessible to tourists and foreigners. Still, residents may get in trouble if they get caught gambling by the officials.
Betting in Egypt
Gambling at casinos is legal in Egypt for tourists. So, when visiting the country, you can go to various physical casinos to play games. However, locals can also partake in certain forms of gambling in Egypt. Thus, lotteries and sports betting are legal for Egyptian citizens.
Is There an Authority That Regulates Gambling in Egypt?
Yes, two bodies regulate different types of gambling in Egypt. As casino gambling is for tourists, the Egyptian Tourism Authority regulates it. On the other hand, the Lottery Coalition manages lotteries in the country.
Betting in Bahrain
Betting is currently illegal in Bahrain. That was not always the case. Lotteries used to be legal in this country. Thus, there used to be a regulatory body for the lotteries. However, lotteries no longer exist.
Does Bahrain have casinos? No, Bahrain does not have any casinos. Betting of all kinds is prohibited in this country. However, some online casinos, such as Wild Casino, accept players from Bahrain. You should note that participating in those gambling games is still illegal if you are playing from this country.
Betting in Lebanon
Gambling in Lebanon is legal. However, there are restrictions on online and offline betting in the country. That said, people do online gambling, and there are underground casinos that work illegally. The one and only casino in Lebanon is Casino Du Liban, located in Jounieh, North Beirut. The casino is about 35,000 square meters, offers gambling services, like 400 slot machines and 60 gaming tables, and has a showroom, nightclub, theater, banquet facility, and five restaurants.
Casino Du Liban is managed by London Clubs International, a subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment , and is the place for experiencing the luxury of casino gambling the Lebanese way!
There is a horse track field called Beirut Hippodrome, and betting on horses is accepted but not inside the hippodrome. Therefore, it does not occur officially, but it has been customary for people to place bets on horses on Sundays (when the races occur).
There is one physical casino in Lebanon. The government has ensured that there are no other casinos. This way, it can help this casino have a monopoly in the country. This monopoly is specific to casino gambling only.
Lottery gambling is also legal across the country. Loto and Zeed are legally offered and available across Lebanon. La Libanaise des Jeux is the official and exclusive lottery games operator in Lebanon.
Betting in Morocco
Gambling in Morocco is legal with some restrictions. For example, online gambling is restricted to lotteries only. That said, players can play on gambling websites (Tiger Gaming, for example) based in other countries if the gambling site accepts that region.
There are many casinos in Morocco for offline betting. You can bet on casino games, lotteries, and sports there. Also, they are open to locals and tourists.
Betting in Arab Countries
It’s important to note that the Middle East and the Arab world (or Arabsphere) are not the same. Both are different regions but with many overlapping countries. As with betting in the Middle East, most Arab countries do not permit any form of gambling. However, things are rapidly changing in the region concerning gambling, and there are signs of casinos becoming legal in the region, starting from the UAE.
Which Arab country has a casino? There is more than one Arab country that has a casino. Lebanon has the region’s largest casino called Casino du Liban. Also, Egypt has many casinos. Casino Semiramis and the London Club Casino are some great examples.
It is also legal to gamble in Morocco. So, you can play various gambling games and bet on sports legally. You should note that these countries are also part of the Middle East.
As explained throughout this article, gambling is illegal in the Middle East for the most part. However, there are some exceptions in some areas.
Answers to Some Additional Questions Regarding Gambling in the Middle East
What are the punishments for betting in the Middle East?
The punishments vary from one country to the other. Also, the penalties are only applicable to countries where gambling is outlawed. For example, the penalty for gambling in Dubai can include up to two years of imprisonment or a fine of a maximum of AED 20,000. So, update yourself on each country’s laws and punishments regarding gambling.
Can you use real money to bet in casinos in the Middle East?
You can place bets with real money in the casinos in Egypt and the casino in Lebanon. Therefore, these physical casinos are legal establishments. So, playing gambling games here is not against the law, but there are some caveats, as mentioned below.
Is gambling legal for everyone in Egypt?
The casinos in Egypt are for tourists only—citizens are not allowed to use them. So, you must show your passport at the establishment’s entrance to be allowed inside. So, casino gambling is legal for tourists, while lotteries and sports betting are legal for citizens.
Do people bet on Cricket in the UAE?
Any cricket gambling that occurs in the UAE is outside the law. The same is true for other sports as well. However, UAE non-natives may be able to place sports bets with offshore bookmakers.
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