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Online Gambling Laws in the UAE
Even though the government regards gambling as an illegal activity, it’s still widely practised throughout the country. Any land-based gambling venues of any kind found to be operating in the UAE will likely be shut down sooner rather than later; even in the tourist friendly places such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai you won’t find any permanent land-based casinos. Therefore, for citizens looking to gamble their options are:
- travelling abroad to gamble at a land-based casino there
- going online
Many prefer online gambling because it’s cheaper, more convenient and more easily accessible.
In 2012, President Sheikh Khalifa issued a decree that increased the number and power of laws to do with various cyber crimes, including online gambling. According to this law, those found to be gambling online can face a rather heavy fine or a lengthy prison sentence. A lot of online casinos have actually been blocked by the UAE authorities. However, the country hasn’t been as efficient as it could have been in blocking casinos – it could have blocked many more.
Even so, some operators decided to pull out of the country or not attempt to enter the country at all. The reason for this was that they knew the government was against online gambling, so they figured they’d be better off focusing on other markets where online gambling is more accepted.
There are quite a few big online casinos and game providers that continue to offer their services to players in the UAE
Despite online gambling technically being illegal, a growing number of people in the UAE regularly enjoy playing casino games on their smartphones. In fact, many people are more likely to gamble on their handheld device while out and about than they are at home on their computer or laptop. In response to this growing trend, pretty much all online casinos available in the country can easily be accessed on mobile devices.
Some people use VPNs to trick their computer into thinking it’s somewhere else. If they access an online casino while using a VPN, their computer won’t remember the casino as being accessed from the UAE. Even though VPNs are used fairly often, they’re illegal and using one can result in prosecution.
Online Casinos Available to UAE Players
As you can probably imagine, the choice of online casinos is somewhat more limited compared with other countries where that laws to do with online gambling aren’t as strict. Don’t let that put you off though – there are still plenty of worthwhile online casinos with top games available to sign up to.
Remember that you should only ever sign up to an online casino that’s licensed, especially in a country with strict gambling laws. If a casino has a licence, you should find it towards the bottom of each page; you may well find a link to the authority that’s supplied the casino with its licence. If you can’t find evidence of a licence anywhere, it’s a good idea not to sign up and to play elsewhere, just to be on the safe side. Some of the many regulatory authorities that offer licences to online casinos include:
- the Malta Gaming Authority
- the Government of Curacao
- the UK Gambling Commission
- the Alderney Gambling Control Commission
You won’t find any online casinos that are based in the UAE itself. The online casinos you’ll be able to access while in the country will be based elsewhere.
If you end up finding several regulated online casinos that accept UAE players, how do you go about whittling them down? There are several criteria you can consider to see which casino is the best one for you. Here are some of those criteria:
You should find that UAE online casinos have more than enough games to keep you entertained. The number of games might not be as large as casinos in other countries, but you should still find plenty of games to suit your tastes. Many of the biggest providers, such as NetEnt, Play’n Go and Microgaming, to name a few, still allow their games to be accessed by people in the UAE. You can play games for real money or you can try them out for free. With free play, you can have as many goes as you like without having to spend any money. This is a great option for anyone new to casino games, or anyone who simply wants to enjoy the games without risking their money.
Bonuses and Loyalty
There’s nothing like claiming casino bonuses and getting free goodies. All online casinos have a welcome bonus you can claim once you’ve signed up and made your first deposit;
- many have rewards for your first few deposits
- some even have a bonus you can claim before you’ve deposited a single penny into your account.
Most good casinos will have some sort of loyalty scheme that offer regular bonuses and perks. The idea behind loyalty schemes is that the more you play at the casino, the better the rewards get.
Thankfully, the typical online casino that accepts players from the UAE also accepts a good range of payment methods. Cryptocurrencies have become increasingly popular over the last few years. In a country where gambling laws are on the stricter side, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are seen as an ideal way of funding casino accounts, since they offer much more anonymity than traditional payment methods and fiat currencies. Wait times for withdrawals vary depending on the casino you’re at and the payment method you’re using. E-wallets and cryptocurrencies tend to be the fastest types of payment method to use. You should find that most, if not all, UAE online casinos let you use the AED.
Most of the time, you shouldn’t have to get in touch with a casino’s customer support team. However, it’s good to know the team’s there waiting to help you whenever you have any issues or problems. Most UAE online casinos will offer several ways of getting in touch, including:
- a live chat feature
- an email address or form
- a phone line you can call
Some casinos may offer customer support in Arabic; almost all of them will offer it in English.
As previously mentioned, mobile gambling is becoming a more widely practised pastime in the country, especially in the more touristy areas such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Gambling on your smartphone or tablet is very convenient indeed and many people in the country, especially the younger generation, enjoy being able to play casino games on their handheld device while they’re out of the house.
Gambling in the UAE
So even though online gambling isn’t exactly legal, there are still at least some online casinos you can sign up to while in the UAE. You’re sure to find a great casino where you can play all sorts of real-money casino games and maybe even score some wins if you’re lucky enough. Just remember to have your wits about you and always stick to the safe casinos. The Casino Gorilla can help you out there – he never wants any of his readers to end up risking prosecution or anything like that. Play at regulated online casinos and there’s very little chance you’ll end up getting in trouble of any kind.
The vast majority of people who gamble online in the UAE do so without any problems, you’ll be glad to hear
Countries that are deeply religious tend to stick with their traditional way of viewing things. If a country’s religious teachings forbid gambling, that country will outlaw gambling and won’t legalise it any time soon. The UAE is one such country. With it being a predominantly Muslim country with Islam as the main religion, there’s a very slim chance the country’s gambling laws will change any time soon. Gambling is forbidden by Islam and religious countries tend to follow what religion tells them, rather than taking a more liberal, modern approach to things such as gambling.
As things stand, in the UAE it’s online gambling that you’ll have to go for. However, there’s every chance that the country will make more of an effort to crack down on online casinos and stop people from playing at them. The chances of online gambling becoming legal in the country are practically non-existent. That’s why it’s important for you to only ever gamble at online casinos that are based in other countries and are fully licensed.
Interestingly enough, horse races and camel races especially are big events. There’s no real-money betting allowed for these events for those physically in the UAE, though there are free-to-enter tournaments with prizes to be won. Anyone who’s based outside of the UAE is able to place real-money bets on the outcomes of the country’s racing events.
Also, as a general word of warning, you should never visit any sort of gambling environment or makeshift casino or anything like that. Any kind of gambling venue is illegal and will eventually be shut down by the authorities. An exception is casinos on cruise ships and even airplanes. These are allowed to operate and accept real-money bets from UAE residents whenever they’re outside of the nation’s waters or airspace. So long as they’re within the country’s borders, they’re not legally allowed to accepts bets from anyone, no matter what country they’re from.
Those found at illegal venues can face rather harsh sentences, including lengthy prison sentences. Therefore, it’s best to avoid any kind of venue where illegal gambling takes place while in the UAE. Having said that, you should still be able to enjoy plenty of online gambling; stick with the safe, regulated casinos and you should be fine.