What’s the status quo of Dubai casinos and is gambling in Dubai legal?
Despite embracing many aspects of modern western culture, Dubai remains a jurisdiction run on Sharia law. Don’t let the vast skyscrapers, shopping centers and its sports contests deceive you – there are no Dubai casinos and that’s not fortuitous.
This is a surprise to many tourists who expect a Macau kind of environment. However, as gambling is prohibited in Islam, which is the underpinnings of UAE laws, gambling in Dubai is prohibited consequently. It goes without saying now that Dubai casinos are at the moment a mirage. In fact, if you are to be found gambling in Dubai, fines can be issued from the cost of AED 250,000 to AED 500,000 – a serious amount of money!
Breaking the law on gambling in the Dubai is not a good idea, given the strict punishments inflicted. Horse and camel racing is a big sport in Dubai, and there are often natives offering illegal odds on a black market betting system. These should be avoided as a tourist.
Not withstanding the foregoing, there are some very limited scenarios in which money can be placed on horses without breaking the law. This is a highly regulated service that should be used with great caution in order to not accidentally gamble with an illegal party. In fact, we should rule this. Furthermore, many people break the law by phoning up overseas bookies and betting through them – particularly for the Dubai-hosted horse races. Of course, this is illegal and an offense that will be prosecuted if caught.
The short answer is no. Dubai sees no difference between gambling online or in a physical casino. Intuitively, this makes sense, but it doesn’t stop people from assuming they can get away with gambling online.
It’s true that it’s harder to enforce online with the use of VPNs, but the punishments if caught remain the same. Websites are regularly blocked and taken down, whilst lifting geo-restrictions with a VPN may often be unreliable. It’s very unlikely to be found out to be gambling online, particularly when using things such as VPNs. However, you still risk facing prosecution if caught, so the official advice is to avoid gambling online.
Many people who visit Dubai can still play live roulette, for example, but this tends to be at airports and places that are outside the jurisdiction. Of course, it’s easy to boot up VIPArabClub when traveling just outside of Dubai, as many Emiratis do.
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As we have established, there are no legal casinos in Dubai. So, for people traveling in and around the Middle East, they may have to go elsewhere to find one. Arguably the closest one – or at least, the best one that is close – is the Casino du Liban. This casino is made for high rollers and wealthy tourists, with an incredibly elegant and formal atmosphere – also requiring a suited formal wear for the dress code.
The casino is located in Beirut in Lebanon. It’s often frequented by people living in and around Dubai. Casino du Liban has 376,000 square feet jam-packed with game machines, poker tables, and 56 different table games.
A flight to Beirut is around 4 hours from Dubai. Staying over should be easy, given that the casino doubles as a hotel and has an array of restaurants along with a theater. Otherwise, head to Egypt for a choice of many casinos – particularly in Cairo.
While Dubai has relaxed laws prohibiting premarital sex, opposite sexes living together and alcohol, it hasn’t shown any signs of relaxing its gambling laws. Laws built on religious text are often less easily turned over, particularly regarding gambling which has certain stigmas. However, Dubai is getting increasingly involved with sport, hosting some of the biggest sports events in the world (boxing, MMA, horses etc). Many of these events attract huge opportunities for gambling, so there is some pressure on Dubai to change the law – but don’t hold your breath.
It should be noted that jail time can also be given to people who gamble in Dubai. Though it’s typically a fine, there are circumstances in which jail time is given. For example, three men were discovered to be acting as an illegal street gambling in Dubai, accepting Dh100 – Dh500 bets from passersby. They were not only fined Dh100,000, but the gamblers also faced a one year prison sentence in Dubai. Once they finish serving their sentence they will be deported, as they are not local citizens. So, it’s clear Dubai is not a place to take grey area risks.
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There is one thing that is pretty much legal gambling in Dubai – raffles. Raffles are essentially lotteries, in which a ticket is purchased and the winner can be given a prize, like a car or luxury holiday. Of course, this is gambling, but it’s somewhat more indirect. For some reason, these exist in Dubai without punishment. So, if you’re really desperate to gamble within the confines of Dubai, find a raffle in places such as shopping centers and events. Events like Dubai Shopping Festival – DSF.
Until next time, stay guided and flourishing.