UAE Names Ex-MGM Boss Murren As Regulator Chairman

September 4, 2023
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has created a regulator for lottery and likely casino gambling, naming ex-MGM boss Jim Murren as chairman and one-time Missouri Gaming Commission executive director Kevin Mullally as CEO.
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has created a regulator for lottery and likely casino gambling, naming ex-MGM boss Jim Murren as chairman and one-time Missouri Gaming Commission executive director Kevin Mullally as CEO.

The federal General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) has been established to “introduce a world-leading regulatory framework for a national lottery and commercial gaming”, according to a report by the official Emirates News Agency on Sunday (September 3).

“The GCGRA is led by a team of internationally credentialed leaders, all with proven track records and a deep understanding of global best practices in regulating and maintaining an effective, safe, and responsible gaming industry,” it said.

However, the report named only Murren and Mullally, providing no other details on personnel, operations or regulatory documentation, nor defining “commercial gaming”.

Murren is a former MGM Resorts International chairman and CEO and a former chairman of its Macau subsidiary MGM China. Mullally served as Missouri’s top regulator for five years in the early 2000s before a 17-year stint as Gaming Laboratories International’s general counsel and government relations boss.

“The GCGRA will create a socially responsible and well-regulated gaming environment, ensuring that all participants adhere to strict guidelines and comply with the highest standards,” the report said.

“It will coordinate regulatory activities, manage licensing nationally and facilitate unlocking the economic potential of commercial gaming responsibly.”

The creation of the GCGRA confirms the entry of the Muslim-majority UAE into the once taboo gambling industry via multiple gaming segments, although it remains unclear if gambling will be available in some format in all seven emirates of the federation.

Nevada-based operators already have footprints in the UAE, with Wynn Resorts building a casino as part of a $3.9bn integrated resort project in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, whose capital of the same name is the sixth-largest city in the country.

Caesars International has managed non-gaming properties in Dubai since 2018, while MGM will also manage a Dubai non-gaming property now in development, with a view to entering the gaming market should it be created.

Murren’s links with UAE officials go back to at least the 2000s, when MGM partnered with UAE state-owned investment company Dubai World on the massive CityCenter project in Las Vegas.

The Associated Press (AP) reported on Monday that Murren, after departing MGM and being appointed to lead Nevada’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, attempted to source UAE-donated testing kits made in China.

US officials opposed the move on the grounds of national security, privacy and testing accuracy, the AP report said.

Murren and Mullally were not available for comment at publication time.

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