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Wynn Resorts: RAK deal raises a few eyebrows

The announcement comes after rumors began circulating about legalising gambling clubs and permitting casinos in the UAE. Jimmy Haoula and Omar Al Masri speak to Trends Mena about the relevant regulations.

The recent announcement by the American casino chain Wynn Resorts to build an integrated luxury resort in Ras Al Khaimah with multiple entertainment venues and a gaming center has sparked many questions about the type of games that would be available in the Muslim-majority country where gambling is forbidden. The announcement comes months after rumors circulated about legalizing gambling clubs and permitting casinos in the UAE, where current regulations prohibit the activity.

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) announced the development of a “new administration” to manage the operations of the emirate’s integrated resorts, including “entertainment facilities.” The department would work “in accordance with best practices and international standards used in organizing entertainment games within integrated resorts, taking into account the emirate’s social, cultural, and environmental dimensions in all relevant procedures, including licenses, taxes, operational processes, and consumer rights,” according to the authority.

Speaking to TRENDS, managing partner at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP, Jimmy Haoula said the resort’s announcement came as no surprise, as the UAE has positioned itself as a key hub for investment in high-profile hospitality projects. He went on to say that the development of this world-class facility would enhance the country’s strategies of attracting an influx of tourists from around the world and contribute to its economic growth. “On a federal, emirate, and local level, the UAE government, as well as regulatory and licensing authorities, have instituted landmark changes to the law in several sectors,” explained Haoula.

“Now, the establishment of the ‘Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation’ by the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority as a gaming regulatory authority will further develop the legal framework to ensure security and protection of participants and the entire community on a larger scale” he noted.


‘Games’ a reference to gambling?

Gambling is prohibited under Chapter VI of the UAE Federal Penal Code. “Anyone who plays gambling shall be penalized by imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or a fine not exceeding fifty thousand dirhams (13.6 thousand dollars) [sic],” according to Article 414 of the penal code. In most cases, though, the term “integrated hotel” is used to refer to a hotel with a casino — a gambling hall  — inside of it.

However, it’s unclear whether the “gaming center” in the new resort would incorporate cash betting and what the “integrated resort license” would cover when it comes to this part. According to Omar Almasri, a corporate paralegal at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP, there are currently no laws in the UAE that directly relate to gaming. However, the potential legal challenge in cash betting lies in the volume of transactions and the number of people who participate, in addition to how cash is paid, collected, and distributed.

He told TRENDS that regulating the gaming industry was always crucial to ensure operational control and that gaming activities were conducted fairly, which safeguard participants from fraud, unethical malpractice, deceptive techniques, or manipulation of results.

“The UAE will always ensure the safety of its citizens and tourists alike, so there would be strict guidelines and regulations in place,” he said. It’s worth mentioning that the gaming activities and raffle contests such as Dubai’s Mahzooz and Abu Dhabi Big Ticket, whereby participants enter a competition by making a specific purchase of a product or a ticket to enter a draw for a chance to win prizes, are available in the UAE. Such activities, according to Almasri, are subject to prior approvals from the relevant regulatory department in the relevant emirate. For example, the Department of Economic Development authorizes and thoroughly regulates all gaming contests in Dubai.

In general, such gaming activities have been widely accepted in the UAE for some time.

Read the original article Trends MENA. 


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