Dubai & gambling: understanding what you can and cannot do
Despite the fact that Dubai is one of the three main areas of the United Arab Emirates where gambling is legal, it's important to understand that this does not mean a free-for-all of glamorous casinos and card games. As a matter of fact, many forms of gambling are still classified as illegal in Dubai, so if you're intending on visiting for pleasure or work it is extremely important to understand what you can and cannot do - penalties for breaking the law in Dubai can be severe, so it pays to be knowledgeable.
Racing and gambling in Dubai
Horse racing (and even camel racing) are huge pastimes in Dubai, but the culture of the racetrack is markedly different than in the western world. Whereas race tracks in the US and Europe typically involve hundreds (if not thousands) of punters making bets on horses, betting at the track is illegal in Dubai, with two exceptions - the Nad Al Sheba and Jebel Ali race courses.
That's not to say gambling doesn't go on at other race meets - at any given time you're likely to come across natives offering odds illegally. Taking them up on this is ill-advised, however: illegal gambling carries a sentence of up to two years in prison and/or a fine of 20,000Dh. With this in mind, it's easy to see why you should stay away from taking a punt at the track.
Are there any casinos in Dubai?
Put simply, no - not of the legal variety, at any rate. The adventurous traveller may find their way into in an illegally operated casino, but this is not recommended for a number of reasons. Firstly, you run the risk of being caught and would face a strict penalty. Secondly, illegal casinos are unsafe places in any part of the world - you risk being mugged, or worse.
Even cruise liners must cease all gambling activities when mooring in Dubai, which leaves one simple option for those wanting to get their gaming fix - the law remains cloudy, however, as we'll now explain:
Online casinos, Dubai and the law
Online gambling, while still technically illegal in Dubai, is difficult to police. Although sites are routinely blocked by UAE internet providers, many Dubai residents still access them via proxy servers and will routinely search for reviews of the best casino sites in order to enjoy games like blackjack, poker and online slots.
If you're intending to gamble online from Dubai, it's worthwhile to remember that you could face prosecution; however, the law is incredibly difficult to enforce (you would practically have to invite law enforcement officials into your accommodation and display that you were actively gambling to be caught!)
Those who wish to gamble online from Dubai can (and regularly do so) by connecting via proxies to bypass ISP restrictions, where they can enjoy a plethora of casino games and experiences from the comfort of their own home. It's like bringing a slice of Vegas into your living room, half a world away.
But if you just want to test some Arab online casino games you can play some of the best free spins and enjoy playing online slots for free, and this is totals legal.
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