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Are There Casinos in the Middle East?

are-there-casinos-in-the-middle-east?

You probably know plenty about the gambling scene in the US. You’ve likely either been to Vegas or a Native American casino at some point. And you have probably heard about the famous Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco. You might even know all about the booming Asian casino industry in Macau, the current gambling capital of the world.

But ask yourself this, how familiar are you with casinos in Middle Eastern countries?

Is it legal, and how does Islam treat gambling?

This post aims to answer all those questions for those who may be uninformed.

What Is Considered the Middle East?

The “Middle East” feels like a vague, even antiquated phrase.

Where is it exactly?

I am going to shift to calling it MENA (the Middle East and African) countries. For this post, it makes more sense, as we are covering several countries over a very well-known region.

MENA includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Omen, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Israel, Syria, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait.

This list is disputable, depending on the source, but it’s what I’m referring to for this post.

Most of these countries have predominantly Muslim populations. And when it comes to gambling, common religious beliefs can raise specific concerns. In fact, the Quran explicitly forbids followers from partaking in gambling.

Islam and Gambling

In almost all Islamic cultures, gambling is condemned along with alcohol consumption. Muslims read the Quran as their holy book, similar to how Christians refer to the Bible.

The Quran states the following excerpts:

“They ask you [Muhammad] concerning wine and gambling. Say: ‘In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.’… Thus, does Allah Make clear to you His Signs, in order that you may consider” (Quran 2:219).

“O you who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, dedication of stones, and divination by arrows, are an abomination of Satan’s handwork. Eschew such abomination, that you may prosper” (Quran 5:90).

“Satan’s plan is to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer. Will you not then abstain?” (Quran 5:91).

Many Muslim experts confirm that participating in competitions like sports is acceptable for a practicing Muslim. Gambling, the lottery, or any kind of betting is off the table.

Sharia law is the final word in this part of the world. What the Quran says does determine how the MENA countries behave and serves as a basis for both their politics and legislation.

So, it’s clear that Islam and real money gambling are not the ideal match. With that said, let’s get back to our original question.

Are there casinos in the Middle East (MENA)?

As it turns out, yes, there are!

MENA Countries That Allow Casinos and Gambling

I do best with lists. Here is a breakdown of our identified MENA countries and whether they allow casino gambling:

  • Morocco – Allows gambling and has casinos within its borders
  • Algeria – No gambling or casinos
  • Tunisia – Allows gambling and has casinos within its borders, but only for foreign visitors
  • Libya – No gambling or casinos
  • Egypt – Allows gambling and has casinos within its borders
  • Yemen – No gambling or casinos
  • Saudi Arabia – No gambling or casinos
  • Oman – Gambling is prohibited and there are no licensed casinos, but there are gambling dens that don’t take “official” money bets (a handful of online casinos seem to fly under the radar)
  • Lebanon – Allows gambling in casinos, racetracks, and online lotteries
  • Iraq – Iraq used to have a healthy gambling industry before 1969; now, all legal forms of gambling, both land-based and online, are unlawful
  • Iran – Gambling was legal in Iran until the Islamic Revolution of the late 1970s and no gambling or casinos are allowed in the country now
  • Afghanistan – No gambling or casinos
  • Turkey –Almost all forms of gambling, including casinos, are illegal but state-run horse tracks, lotteries, and sportsbooks are permissible
  • Israel – State-run casinos and dog tracks are allowed, as well as cruise ships and some border towns
  • Syria – No gambling or casinos
  • Jordan – As of now, there are no casinos or legal gambling sources, but Jordan could potentially allow gambling and casinos in its future
  • United Arab Emirates – Surprisingly, no gambling or casinos
  • Qatar – No gambling or casinos
  • Bahrain – No gambling or casinos
  • Kuwait – No gambling or casinos

As you can see, gambling and casino choices are limited in MENA. It’s similar to how it is in the US, where Utah’s religious beliefs affect its local gambling and casino laws.

I’m not trying say that people here don’t gamble at all. I’m sure there are tons of nationals from any one of these countries that visit casinos all around the world.

It’s hard to pursue online gambling charges in countries with harsh restrictions. But some of the countries’ residents visit offshore online casinos, even though most have laws against ALL forms of gambling.

So, it truly depends on the country’s laws and the behavior of its residents. There are definitely some casinos in the MENA (Middle East) that have casinos and allow gambling, just not a lot.

Best Casinos in the Middle East

There aren’t many casinos to choose from these days. In fact, there were many more options before the Islamic Revolution swept through the Middle East in 1979.

Here’s a list of the casinos most worth visiting:

1 – Casino du Liban

Casino du Liban is probably the best-known casino in the region. Initially opened in 1959, the casino has seen its share of the area’s history.

The casino closed in 1989 due to the Lebanese Civil War. It later opened after $50 million in renovations in 1996.

The casino is in Maameltein, about 40 miles north of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. It is a regional attraction bringing in dignitaries and celebrities.

The Casino du Liban’s casino floor is almost 115,000 square feet. The casino has around 56 gaming tables where guests can enjoy blackjack, many forms of poker, American Roulette, and a few unique games. There are also over 400 slot machines to enjoy.

2 – London Club Cairo Casino

The London Club Cairo is in the capital of Egypt, which is Cairo. It is managed by Caesar International, which is based out of Las Vegas, NV. This is one of the few privately owned casinos in MENA. Most casinos are state-owned.

The London Club is smaller than American casinos. It only has 34 slot machines and 18 gaming tables. What the London Club does best is elegance. The casino and its hotel, the Ramses Hilton Hotel, are upscale and opulent.

The gaming tables require formal attire, but if you’re feeling casual, that’s okay, too. Just hit the slot machines. You definitely can’t just play blackjack in your flip-flops here.

Nestled in the Nile District, this casino and hotel should be on your gambling bucket list.

3 – Mazagan Beach and Golf Resort

Mazagan is the most luxurious of the casinos on this list. It is in El Jadida, Morocco. The lux resort and casino is also home to a world-class golf course.

The resort is so extravagant that it pulls in international celebrities. The resort offers an all-inclusive destination for everyone in the family.

The casino floor is modern and eye-catching, and it offers more than 475 slot machines and 46 gaming tables. Guests can play blackjack, poker, baccarat, and roulette.

High rollers can take advantage of the private salons and suites for higher limit and private games.

You’ll find plenty of different kinds of dining and entertainment options on-site as well. The Mazagan is home to 10 restaurants and bars.

It even caters to the wealthy elite with its high-class offerings and amenities. The spa located on the beachfront property is a throwback to Old World Moroccan style but with today’s exceptional spa services.

Conclusion

There’s a lot to unpack here. No region has its religious beliefs as ingrained in their laws and society as the Middle East. The Sharia Law, the Islamic tradition that guides lawmaking, is the final word in most cases.

There aren’t a lot of casinos, but the ones that are open are spectacular. Make sure you add the Middle East to your list of destinations to gamble in!

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. …

View all posts by Michael Stevens

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