Middle East Aiming to Become a Gaming Powerhouse

Middle East

These are times of unprecedented changes in the Middle East – a point highlighted by Saudi Arabia dropping a bombshell on Wednesday.

The country, long known for its strict adherence to conservative Islamic principles, announced the opening of a first-ever alcohol store in the diplomatic quarter of its capital, Riyadh.

According to CNBC, this move has one purpose – tackling the liquor smuggling. Bootlegging has been a long-standing problem in the country.

However, this groundbreaking announcement could be a first step towards a resolution. On top of that, alcohol will only be accessible to non-Muslim diplomats.

Saudi Arabia’s preparedness to make the sale of ‘booze’ legitimate underscores the kingdom’s shifting approach to social and cultural practices. It also opens the door to other forbidden subjects.

Gambling, one of the most profitable industries globally, has long been trying to pierce the Arab world. For centuries, it’s been a taboo subject, but that is no longer the case.

As one of the wealthiest regions on the planet, the Middle East has long managed to stay immune to the gambling industry’s attempts to gain a foothold in this territory. But with the world gravitating to new trends, local countries are reluctant to be left behind by the evolving global landscape.

Starting with the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East has begun opening its door to the gambling sector. Nevada-based casino giant Wynn Resort announced a multi-billion-dollar deal with the UAE emirate of Ras al Khaimah that will see it open a massive luxury hotel. The complex will include ‘gaming’.

Often used synonymously with gambling in the context of leisure venues, gaming could be argued to be a misnomer. However, its use allows the UAE stealthily circumvent opposition to gambling.

The appointment of Jim Murren as the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority’s chairman underscores the UAE’s accelerating series of liberalising reforms.

Murren has been a household name in the gambling industry for decades. Everyone familiar with his work in the United States can testify to his unique ability to create a sustainable legal framework in this sector.

As one of the most influential individuals on the gambling scene, the 62-year-old is the perfect candidate to lay the groundwork for a new era in the UAE.

He won’t work alone, with the UAE onboarding Kevin Mullally to assemble a star-studded cast. With nearly 30 years of experience in the field, he has assumed the role of CEO.

The duo’s foremost priority is to create a robust framework that will ensure responsible gaming. Considering their reputation, it should be a mere formality.

While the UAE is powering ahead with gaming, Kuwait is a bit behind the curve. Like all other Middle East countries, Kuwaiti laws forbid every form of gambling activity.

The country has implemented measures to block access to betting sites and online casinos. Technological restrictions, accompanied by banking constraints on transactions associated with handling, withdrawing and depositing funds for such purposes, are supposed to dissuade such activities.

However, several sites operating within the country do accept Arab players. The use of ‘proxy’ server sites helps local players gain access to other gambling platforms and enjoy the excitement offered by every online casino in Kuwait. The latest technological trends have propelled the emergence of online casinos, even in conservative countries such as Kuwait.

As for financial and banking transactions, Kuwait is one of the most supportive Arab nations for online dealings. Additionally, in the world of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, where anonymity plays a prominent role, depositing and withdrawing funds in online casinos has become increasingly seamless.

Online casinos’ popularity has picked up momentum in recent years and has shown no signs of slowing down. Leveraging virtual reality and augmented reality technology while using all the benefits offered by artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, iGaming is making significant strides.

The Middle East has displayed a genuine ambition to embrace these innovations and keep up with the rest of the world. With the local residents’ increased addiction to smartphones and enhanced Wi-Fi connectivity, the region has facilitated access to online gambling sites.

In addition to online casinos, the Middle East is witnessing a notable uptick in sports betting, driven by recent developments in the Saudi Pro League. That’s not to mention Saudi Arabia will host the 2034 FIFA World Cup, which will only intensify people’s interest in betting activity.

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