A quick look at the world’s richest horse races will soon throw up the Dubai World Cup, which has taken place at the Meydan Racecourse in the Emirate of Dubai since 1996. It has always offered an impressive pot, with the winner in 2019 taking home $7.2 million of the overall pot of $12 million. Godolphin is one of horse racing’s most successful stables, having been founded by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum with a headquarters in Dubai. In other words, it is entirely fair to say that Dubai has a strong horse racing pedigree.
Interestingly, though, Dubai comes under strict Islamic law, which forbids gambling. The result of that is that gambling is not legally permitted in the city, just as it is banned throughout the rest of the United Arab Emirates. There are no casinos in Dubai, despite the city’s popularity with business travellers that would undoubtedly like to be able to place a bet or two whilst they’re staying in the area. Betting in bricks and mortar locations is strictly forbidden, so how does the city marry up the inherent contradiction in-play with the horse racing?
Gambling Is Illegal
Gambling is illegal in Dubai, with the country coming under strict Sharia Law. When rumours emerged online about the idea of certain areas in the city being licensed for gambling, the Government of Dubai’s Media Office came out to strongly deny it. Those that are found guilty of gambling can be fined as much as AED500,000, in addition to being given a custodial sentence, so it’s really important that visitors to the region understand that it really isn’t something that they should be looking to get involved with during their stay.
As with virtually any area in which something is illegal, you will almost certainly be able to engage with gambling if you’re willing to do so illegally. It really is crucial that you realise that doing so puts you in extreme danger and the police force will not look kindly on anyone engaging in an activity that has been clearly stated to be illegal. In 2020, the Dubai police launched an app that allows people to report suspicious behaviour, so even if you think you’re getting away with it it is entirely possible that someone will know what you’re up to.
Online Gambling Is Tougher to Enforce
In theory, online betting is just as illegal in Dubai as any other form of gambling. In practice, however, it is much harder for the authorities to keep track of whether people are placing online bets or not. Many people in the city will use Virtual Private Networks to hide their true location, placing bets with sites that allow them to do so using this method. As you might imagine, the authorities will come down hard on anyway that is found to be doing this, but actually finding people guilty of the offence is easier said than done.
Accessing foreign-based casinos to place bets can be done using technological devices and you would practically have to do so in front of a member of the Dubai police force in order to be prosecuted for doing it. That being said, given the manner in which the offence is treated so seriously in the United Arab Emirates, you would be a brave person to rely on the success of your VPN to allow you to place bets. There are plenty of things to do and to see in Dubai that should mean you can resist gambling for the duration of your stay there.
What About the Horse Racing?
It is definitely true that Dubai is famous for its horse racing. As well as Meydan Racecourse, you can also visit Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, Dubai Camel Race Club and Jabel Ali Racecourse during your stay in the city. For those of you that are simply desperate to place a bet whilst you’re visiting Dubai, there is a degree of good news. It is legal to place bets at both Jebel Ali Racecourse and the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, where you can place wagers on the races taking place that day completely legally.
If you spend time at the other courses mentioned you would probably also find people offering you the chance to place a bet or two. Simply put, you should avoid such people at all times. Betting at other courses remains illegal and those offering you the chance to place a wager are not doing so legally. There is every chance that they could be trying to entrap people looking to place a bet or that they’re being watched closely by the legal authorities in Dubai, keen to clamp down on such an activity the first chance they get.
Isn’t It Hypocritical?
You might well have noticed that one of the racecourses not on the list of ones where you can place a bet is Meydan Racecourse. The idea that you can’t place a wager at a racecourse that hosts one of the richest horse races in the world might seem truly bizarre to most people, but that is the way in which Sharia Law works in the country. If you are in the United Kingdom, the United States of America or certain other countries around the world, you can place a bet on the outcome of the Dubai World Cup that people at the actual racecourse can’t do.
It is, of course, madly hypocritical. The owners and trainers are gambling on winning large sums of money by having their thoroughbreds take part in the event, but that doesn’t mean that the people watching from the sidelines can also have a flutter. The law, of course, has often been hypocritical on more occasions than just when a horse race is taking place, so it’s not a shock that Dubai finds itself in the same sort of situation. Huge sums of money can be passed between horse racing owners but not people living in, working in or visiting the city.