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How Does Betting Work In the United Arab Emirates?

Casino worker dealing from the deck of cards and betting on his mobile phone.
If you’re planning on taking a trip to any of the luxurious destinations in the United Arab Emirates and have a knack for betting, you might be wondering what your options are. With some glamorous destinations like Dubai, you may think that there will be countless opportunities awaiting you – but this isn’t usually the case.

If you are imagining a gambling scene like Las Vegas, you might be surprised to learn that this couldn’t be further from the truth. This country is far less open to the idea of gambling; not only is it frowned upon, but it’s illegal throughout the UAE. While options are often quite limited, the restrictions in place don’t necessarily mean that tourists and ex-pats can’t get their fix.

To give you a helping hand in understanding the legalities and what you can and can’t do, we thought we’d look a little closer into what’s allowed in the United Arab Emirates and how you can still enjoy casino games and betting despite the strict rules.

Why is gambling illegal here?

There’s no doubt that the UAE generally frowns upon gambling, even going as far as prohibiting gambling activities like lotteries. If you’re not a resident and don’t know much about life here, you might be wondering why.

Well, many of the laws and rules in place across the country are based on teachings and passages in the Quran. The restrictions that prohibit gambling usually come from a religious standpoint, largely because gambling is considered to be a sin. While those who don’t agree may feel that the umbrella-style ban is a little extreme, respect should be practised when visiting another country.

At its core, the ban is about morals. The restrictions on gambling are simply in place to prevent problems that can stem from gambling, as well as the belief that money should be earned through genuine work. After all, winning a jackpot isn’t exactly an honest way of earning money in the eyes of the law when you consider the concept that people should be rewarded for effort and not luck. 

With this in mind, betting and gambling are prohibited across the country; from lesser forms like raffles to the most notable ones like casinos. All of these are prohibited. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Muslims never gamble, but most of the time, betting with real cash is at the very least disapproved of and you won’t find brick-and-mortar casinos or betting shops anywhere.

Are there really no options? 

Despite the wealth and glamour of certain locations within the UAE, gambling isn’t typically allowed, but there are a few things that you can consider available. Even with the absence of casinos, you might just find a couple of ways that you can enjoy gambling.

Some forms of sports betting have gone under the radar and are legal in certain parts of the country, with Dubai being a prime example. There isn’t usually much on offer in terms of how varied your experience will be, but it is an option for those who are looking for a chance to place a bet.

Many ex-pats have found that events like the Dubai World Cup and cricket competitions are available for gambling when using foreign bookmakers online. Best betting sites in the UAE make it much easier for tourists and non-native residents alike to enjoy the hobby without having to worry about the strict legalities imposed by the country. While there isn’t a huge range of options available, there are at least a few opportunities that are still accessible to those who want to have a flutter.

Is online betting legal in the United Arab Emirates?

As mentioned above, it is an option for visitors and ex-pats to bet online from foreign bookmakers, but there are a few things that you’ll need to know first. Bettors from around the globe are well within their rights to place a wager on an event that’s happening in the UAE – from their own respective country at least. 

Online bookies and casinos can be an option, although when choosing an offshore site, you should always aim to pick one that’s from your country of origin or the closest possible solution. Additionally, not all online sites will accept players from the United Arab Emirates, so this is something that you should also keep in mind. Fortunately, several online casinos do accept players from Dubai and other parts of the country.

Even with the tight restrictions against gambling, the rules aren’t quite as severe when it comes to online bets from offshore sites.

Are there any sites licensed by the UAE?
With the strict Islamic laws and ethics on the matter, it’s not surprising that the United Arab Emirates does not have any online betting sites or casinos operating from within the country. Even if you can bet at offshore bookies, there aren’t currently any within the UAE itself. 

If you do come across websites that say that they are licensed and fully operational within the country’s limits, you might want to look a little closer into how legitimate they are to ensure that you won’t be scammed. 

Could gambling ever be entirely legalised?

With the potential that casinos in wealthy areas like Dubai could offer, it’s certainly something that could happen in the future. While it may not be an immediate or drastic change, we could see some small things become more commonplace, like online gambling for example. 

The country could certainly benefit from the influx of money and tourism that casinos and betting shops could offer, so it’s not a huge reach to assume that restrictions could lessen over time.


Gambling in Dubai and other parts of the UAE may not be a perfect and glamorous experience, but if you’re simply hoping for a chance to place a few bets or play some casino games and don’t care too much about a Las Vegas-style atmosphere, you could certainly enjoy playing online with little fuss.

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