Paving the way for the future launch of a local betting and gaming market, the UAE has created a new regulatory authority to manage and licence the industry.
The General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) has been established to govern commercial gaming and lotteries, according to state media.
It is unclear whether ‘gaming’ will encompass sports betting, online casino or just land-based casino, but the senior management of the new regulator has been decided upon by UAE authorities.
It seems that the UAE is looking to harness US betting and gaming talent for its new regulator, having appointed Kevin Mullally as Chief Executive of the authority.
Mullally has been working in the stateside betting and gaming sector for over three decades, including 13 years at the Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC) – where he was Executive Director between 2000 and 2006.
This was followed by 17 years with Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), where he served as General Counsel and Director of Government Relations and then Vice President of Government Relations & General Counsel.
Mullally remarked: “I am delighted to have been appointed as the inaugural CEO of the GCGRA. With my experienced colleagues, I look forward to establishing a robust regulatory body and framework for the UAE’s lottery and gaming industry.”
Also appointed to leadership of the new authority is Jim Murren, who will serve as Chair of the GCGRA. LIke Mullally, Murren has substantial experience of the US gaming scene, most notably being a member of the Board of Directors at MGM Resorts International for 22 years.
Murren held a range of senior roles at the US betting and gaming conglomerate, including Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer and ultimately CEO and Chairman, during which time the group’s engagement with the UAE began to increase.
This was encapsulated most by the development of the CityCentre project on the Las Vegas strip, a joint venture between MGM and Dubai World – an investment company which conducts business on behalf of the Dubai government.
MGM would ultimately buy out Dubai World’s 50% stake in the joint venture for $2.12bn in 2021, whilst under Murren’s leadership the Las Vegas-based firm would increase its presence in Dubai itself via the construction of new hotels.
“I am delighted at the appointment of Kevin Mullally,” Murren said. “He brings unparalleled category experience and will be invaluable in creating a fit-for-purpose regulatory framework for the UAE.”
When it comes to betting and gaming, Dubai is the most likely destination for development in the country, with the city already hosting a vast tourism and hospitality industry.
Sporting heritage is also present in the form of prominent horse races such as the Dubai World Cup as well as motorsports spectacles such as Formula One’s Dubai Grand Prix.
The creation of the GCGRA suggests that the UAE is heading towards the milestone of becoming the first Arab nation to host legal casino operations, something which some international firms seem to have already pre-empted.
For example, Wynn Resorts is currently in the process of building a huge casino complex in Dubai, and the group’s CEO, Craig Billings, remarked in this year’s Q2 webcast that he expects the company to ‘imminently’ secure an operating licence.
With international interest around the prospects of the betting and gaming scene in the UAE – particularly Dubai – continuing to grow, the GCGRA has been set the task of ‘maintaining an effective, safe and responsible gaming industry’ through regulatory action.