Known for its riches, excess and all-round luxury, Dubai might seem a natural spot in which to base some of the world’s gaudiest roulette casinos.
Thanks to an ethos of “bigger, brighter, taller and flashier”, Dubai is a city that’s on a constant mission to be the best. Whether that’s constructing the world’s tallest buildings or largest man-made lagoon makes little difference; all that matters is that the world takes notice of the oil-rich haven and pays it the plaudits it believes it’s due.
And yet, if you’re planning a trip to Dubai to play a spot of roulette, you may want to reconsider. You see, for all its money, there’s one thing that the city and emirate can’t buy – and a casino is one of them.
As a Muslim country, there are some things that Dubai doesn’t indulge. Drugs and alcohol are not widely tolerated, although the city is perceived as being more liberal than many of its neighbours in the Arab world.
As it stands, Dubai is one of the few places in the UAE where gambling is legal, with most of the action taking place at the racetracks. Dubai’s citizens are extremely fond of horse racing and camel racing, and wealthy racehorse owners wager huge sums on their beloved steeds. Despite this, casinos are not legal. You can still legally play roulette however, just not in a land-based premises. How so?
Roulette Gambling in Dubai
With its towering skyscrapers and palm-shaped lagoons, the entire city of Dubai resembles one giant Vegas-style resort. If you want to play roulette and other casino games, you’re free to do so, but there’s an unusual caveat attached – gambling is only possible online.
While many nations are content to let their citizens gamble in land-based premises but not on the web, Dubai’s rulers have taken a reverse approach. The practice isn’t encouraged, admittedly, but many of the city’s citizens and visitors do, playing on their smartphones and other devices. You don’t have to be a billionaire sheikh to play roulette in Dubai; you just need to have an online casino account.
While the city is open for business if you’re a sports bettor, it offers less delights from the perspective of roulette players, or for players of other casino games for that matter. Although you’re free to play online to your heart’s content while in the city, there’s a case for saying that there’s little point in visiting Dubai to perform an activity you could perform anywhere in the world, including your own home.
Still, if you’re required to visit the oil-rich emirate on holiday or for business purposes, it’s reassuring to know you can still indulge your love of roulette without fearing the consequences should anyone discover your extra-curricular activities.
Land-Based Gambling in Dubai
For those who enjoy gambling at real-world premises – and sampling Dubai’s nightlife while they’re at it – the best place to head is to the racetrack. It’s here you’ll find the city’s major gamblers, including oligarchs, the new rich, sheiks and others wagering huge sums of money.
The racetrack isn’t just for the obscenely rich however, and you certainly don’t have to be a high roller to get involved. There are two prime racing facilities in Dubai where gambling is sanctioned by the state and readily indulged in by its citizens.
This might seem contradictory, given that standalone casinos are not legal in Dubai, but then Dubai is a city of contradictions, as anyone who’s purchased alcohol there will have discovered. Officially, it’s a devout Muslim state, but unofficially you can obtain most things if you know where to look.
If you fancy having a gamble during your trip, your best bet is to head to the Jebel Ali or the Nad Al Sheba racecourses. Each of these offers a limited range of gambling facilities, even if you won’t find any roulette tables or slots.
Dubai is so committed to enforcing its ban on casino gambling that even the cruise ships that moor offshore are prohibited from operating their onboard casinos.
How to Play Roulette Online in Dubai
While Dubai-based players aren’t penalised for gambling online, that’s not to say the authorities go out of their way to facilitate it either. If you’re serious about wanting to play roulette during your stay, or as a citizen of the emirate, you’ll need to use your initiative.
Using your mobile or other device, you can go online and play at numerous overseas casinos that offer all the usual games you’re into, from slots to poker.
To gamble online from Dubai, however, you’ll need to circumvent the measures that have been put in place to deter residents from doing just that.
Many tech-savvy players have been successful in outwitting government internet filtering that has been designed to block access to online casinos. By using a VPN, web proxy or Tor browser, it should be possible to play at your preferred casino. It may take a bit of trial and error however. While there are no reports of players being targeted for gambling in such a manner while in Dubai, it makes sense to exercise discretion when doing so.
It might seem contradictory for the country to shun roulette and similar casino games while embracing sports betting, but in fairness it’s not just Dubai that exercises double standards; many countries have similarly contradictory policies that facilitate some forms of gambling while banning others.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority are the body tasked with enforcing the city’s access to forbidden sites. For whatever reason, it seems far easier to circumvent their restrictions pertaining to online casinos than it does for those concerning adult websites.
This is perhaps an indication of the hierarchy of offensiveness, which sees gambling rated as one of the lesser evils. Play roulette if you want to while you’re in Dubai; just don’t make a big song and a dance about it.
The Future of Gambling in Dubai
While roulette and other forms of casino gambling remain illegal in Dubai, attempts have certainly been made to overcome this ban. The most notable saw the proposed construction of a man-made island 30 miles offshore, which lies in international waters.
The plan was to construct a huge luxury casino there, but once Dubai’s rulers caught wind of it, the plans were quickly put on ice.
It seems realistic to assume that Dubai will eventually give in to pressure and construct its own casinos, not least because money talks in the oil-rich emirate, and it can hardly cite moral grounds for the ban, given the popularity of horse racing and sports betting. For now, whether you’re living there or holidaying, you’ll need to get your kicks online, using a little ingenuity in the process to access your favourite casinos.
Is it legal to gamble in Dubai?
Sports betting is legal at the city’s horse racing tracks, but traditional gambling including roulette and poker is not.
What about gambling online?
Gambling online is a different matter – many people based in Dubai regularly do so with impunity.
Why is betting allowed but casinos aren’t?
Good question. That’s just the way the law stands at present, though it’s likely that the restrictions on casinos will eventually be relaxed.
How do I gamble online in Dubai?
With a VPN or other piece of software designed to circumvent government attempts to restrict access to online casinos.