Are you planning a trip to the Middle East and wondering if gambling is legal there, or are you just curious about how the Muslim-majority countries in the region treat gambling? This post answers these questions and provides all the information you need about gambling in the Middle East.
Is gambling legal in the Middle East?
Before we start unpacking the details, let’s explain what is considered the Middle East. For this post, the Middle East comprises Southwest Asia and Northeast Africa countries, including Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Kuwait.
There is no straightforward answer to this question, as gambling is legal in some Middle East countries and illegal in others. Although the majority of the population in this region practices Islam – a religion that frowns at gambling; some countries there allow UAE online casinos and other forms of gambling. To make it easy for you, let’s give you a breakdown of Middle East countries that support gambling and others that don’t
Countries that allow gambling in the Middle East
Egypt, Morocco, and Lebanon top the list of countries that allow gambling within their borders. If you visit Egypt, you can play casino games in some of their five-star hotels. These casinos are only open to tourists, not Egyptians. However, their locals can play lotteries and place bets on sportsbooks.
Similarly, tourists can play online casino games at some select locations in Morocco. Like Egypt, casino gambling is also illegal for Moroccan citizens. However, several wealthy Moroccans have two passports, so they still find their way into these casinos. Another form of gambling that’s allowed in Morocco is sports betting. Both foreigners and locals can place bets on their favorite sportsbooks.
Lebanon allows most types of gambling, including online casinos, lotteries, and racetracks. The oldest and most popular casino in the Middle East, Casino du Liban, is located in Jounieh, Lebanon. The casino was first opened in 1959, shut down in 1986, and relaunched in 1996. Casino du Liban has several table games and hundreds of slot machines.
Middle East countries where gambling is illegal
As a muslin-dominated region, it is no surprise that most Middle East countries don’t allow gambling within their borders. The nations that have outlawed gambling in the region outnumber the few that allow it. Here is a list of some countries where locals and tourists could face the wrath of the law if caught gambling.
- Saudi Arabia – The government does not allow online casinos, conventional casinos, sports betting, and other forms of gambling. As a result, there is no single casino in the country.
- UAE – Although a popular tourist destination, the country prohibits all forms of casinos and gambling. You are not even allowed to advertise gaming in this country.
- Iran – Gambling was legal in Iran until 1970, when it was completely outlawed. However, some Iranians continue to break the law by betting on online foreign sportsbooks.
- Turkey – Gambling laws in Turkey are more relaxed compared to UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. The government prohibited casinos and other non-state online gambling some decades ago. However, the law supports state lottery and betting services. Like Iran, online casinos and other forms of gambling that have been outlawed still persist.
- Iraq – There are no land-based gambling establishments in Iraq. You can’t partake legally in casinos, lotteries, sports betting, and more.
- Other countries in the region that prohibits online casinos and gambling include Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Oman, Afghanistan, Syria, and Jordan.
Future outlook of gambling in the Middle East
Despite Islam prohibiting gambling, bettors from the Middle East account for a significant percentage of the total dollars spent on gaming worldwide. However, most of these revenues are lost to foreign gambling establishments. With this trend, experts have predicted that more Middle East countries will tap into this revenue opportunity by relaxing their gambling laws soon.
One of the countries looking in this direction is UAE. Recently, the country signed a multi-billion dollar deal with Wynn, a Nevada-based casino, to open a 1,000-room luxury hotel with a gaming area, multiple lounges and restaurants, and shopping venues. However, whether this new gaming venue in the UAE will be open to only tourists or both tourists and their citizens remains unknown.
We believe if UAE follows through with this deal, it could make other countries in the region consider reviewing their gambling laws.
The legality of gambling varies across the Middle East region. In some countries, such as UAE and Saudi Arabia, gambling is strictly prohibited and considered illegal. In other countries, such as Lebanon and Bahrain, gambling is legal and regulated by the government.
However, even in countries where gambling is legal, it is often heavily restricted. For example, in Lebanon, only certain types of gambling are allowed, such as horse racing and casino games, and the government heavily regulates these activities.
In some countries, such as Egypt, the legal status of gambling is somewhat ambiguous. While there are no specific laws that prohibit gambling, it is not officially recognized as a legal activity. This means that while it may not be technically illegal, it is not regulated and there is a certain amount of risk involved for those who participate in it.
It is important to note that the laws regarding gambling in the Middle East can be subject to change and can vary depending on the specific country or region. It is best to check with local authorities for the most up-to-date information on gambling laws in a specific area.
Overall, gambling is not legal or widely accepted in most of Middle East countries, and the few countries that allow it have strict regulations in place.
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