Gambling in Arab Countries
11 October 2021
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The third part of our gambling tour takes us to Western Asia, the region best known for its oil and gas export, luxurious everything, and gold-covered platinum traffic lights. High income may mean that all people of the region are likely high-rollers, but there’s a wrinkle — the majority of the Gulf countries are Muslim states, which means that any kind of gambling or betting is a grave sin. 

We will take a look at some GEOs of the region: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt. All of those are listed among the top 10 richest Arab countries in 2021, but is that wealth accessible for your gambling campaigns? Let’s find out!

What is allowed and how is it going?

The region gets its wealth from petroleum export and luxury tourism, but it is rather difficult to pull off games of chance and sports betting in a land of Islamic tradition. This makes gamblers from Western Asia seek legal entertainment elsewhere, in Europe or in Eastern Asia, for instance. And for the same reasons, the popularity of iGaming and online betting is soaring in Arab countries. The younger generation does not abide by the Sharia laws as eagerly as their parents used to. Even if gambling is frowned upon and illegal, it is still very much present in the region, especially in the online format.

  United Arab Emirates

 

The UAE laws prohibit all kinds of gambling and betting. Casual gambling is punishable by up to 2-years’ detention, citizens get fined, foreigners — deported. There are no brick-and-mortar casinos, betting shops, or lottery stalls in the UAE (10 years in prison for opening such businesses), but people still gamble a lot using foreign websites despite the local restrictions.

Like many other Arab nations, UAE citizens love racing. For example, some of the biggest and most prestigious horse race tracks in the world are the Meydan Racecourse and the Dubai World Cup. Of course, it is impossible to bet directly from the UAE, but there’s plenty of opportunities on foreign websites. Gambling is punishable by law, but if you find a way to access the offshore sites (proxy, VPN, remote desktop connection, etc.), you can even bet on the UAE races and other events. Aside from omniscient horse racing, UAE citizens also enjoy football, basketball, Formula 1, tennis, and cricket. And love placing bets on these, of course.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is an Islamic monarchy, and Sharia law considers gambling to be “the work of Satan”, so for the population of this country, it may be difficult to use the considerable wealth ($46,762.50 GDP per capita) for entertainment. The majority of the population are devoted Muslims and honor the state ban on any  gambling activities. You will not find any state-licensed casinos, bookmakers, or poker rooms in Saudi Arabia. Sports betting is also non-existent, even the ancient sport of camel and horse racing does not involve betting on the outcome.

However, there is no law that prohibits gambling or betting online on a foreign platform. Nevertheless, it is better to keep a low-profile with such a hobby, since it still will be frowned upon in society. For marketers, this means that people gamble and place bets from the comfort of their homes during the off-hours and on weekends.

Men and women alike love to play mobile games, and the studies show, that on average, citizens play mobile games 5 days a week and do not hesitate to make in-game purchases. Games market in Saudi Arabia reached the $1-billion revenue landmark in 2020. Among the reasons to play are filling spare time, the attraction of competition, and a wish to escape the daily routine. This can be very beneficial for In-App gambling campaigns.

Egypt

 

Egypt is also a Muslim country where gambling is illegal, but here the situation is different from the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In a nutshell, traditional gambling and betting are prohibited for the locals, while tourists can gamble in land-based casinos. On the other hand, locals are absolutely free to place bets and gamble online as there is no law to stop them.

Unlike many Arabian countries, Egypt has brick-and-mortar casinos (located in Alexandria, Cairo, Sharm el Sheikh, and Taba). Cairo has about the biggest number of casinos — 13, some of them are known worldwide and attract millions of players every year. The services, although, are available only to foreign guests, locals are not allowed in and resort to online gambling like the rest of the region-dwellers. The only currencies accepted at Egyptian casinos are the US dollar and euro.

Online gambling is not controlled by the state and there is no law regulating this sector. This means, that there are no Egyptian iGaming websites per se, but locals use foreign Arab gambling and betting sites without fear of persecution. Football, basketball, squash, handball, tennis — are some of the most popular sports to bet on.

Egypt also runs a National Lottery that is widely advertised by the government. It is accessible to all the residents, the only hitch is the heavy winner’s fee to the state.

To wrap it up

  • Western Asia is predominantly rich and overwhelmingly Muslim, this asks for a careful balance when it comes to gambling activities.
  • Advertisers pay well for native Arab players (average CPA of $300–$250 + RevShare), but it is extremely difficult to set the targeting right because of the local restrictions and an influx of non-Arab tourists who are less solvent and, consequently, bring lower CPAs ($30 on average).
  • There are traditional casino halls and betting shops in the region (e.g. in Lebanon and Egypt), but they mainly offer their services to foreign and non-Muslim guests, while flocks of well-to-do players are forced to opt for online gambling and betting or going to  East Asian casinos as part of a junket tour.
  • Considering payment methods, it is wiser to opt for systems that offer a high degree of anonymity. As gambling is illegal in many countries of the region, people avoid having transactions from betting and gambling sites on their bank statements. This means no wire transfers and many Skrill or Neteller transactions. The safest go-to medium for the moment is cryptocurrency.
  • Players from the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other West-Asian countries where gambling is illegal prefer immersive casinos with rich “1001 nights” or Arabian roulette entourage.

Some of the biggest online casinos in Arabic

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