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UAE Law Prohibits Gambling, with Limited Exceptions for Lotteries Authorised by MoE

Unauthorised participation in gambling activities beyond sanctioned lotteries can incur severe penalties

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on April 16, 2024, 13:02:46


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In light of recent developments, such as the temporary suspension of operations by raffle draw operators like Big Ticket, Emirates Draw and Mahzooz, questions may arise regarding the legality of such lotteries in the UAE

Lottery, another term for gambling, is considered haram (forbidden) according to the Holy Quran, Sunnah and the consensus of Islamic scholars.
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), lottery laws strictly adhere to Islamic principles, which prohibit gambling in any form as per Islamic law, the primary source of legislation in the country.

The UAE upholds strict adherence to Islamic law, which categorically prohibits gambling. Article No. 355 of the UAE's Penal Code classifies engagement in any form of gambling as a criminal offence, subjecting offenders to imprisonment, fines, or both. This prohibition extends to participation in lotteries or other chance-based games, whether conducted online or in physical settings.

However, there are limited exceptions to this stringent stance on lotteries within the UAE. Under Federal Law No. 3 of 1987, as amended, only companies authorised by the Ministry of Economy (MoE) are permitted to conduct raffles, lucky draws and lottery activities accessible to the general public.

These authorised draws typically operate through two channels:

One-time Valid Ticket Purchases

  • Emirates Draw: Administered by Dubai Duty Free, an entity owned by Emirates.
  • Mahzooz: An online platform enabling customers to engage in daily and weekly draws, including the Mahzooz Grand Lottery.
  • Dubai Lottery: Offering a spectrum of prizes ranging from cars and cash to luxury items.
  • Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire Lottery: Bi-monthly draws featuring substantial prizes.
  • The Finest Surprise Draw: Conducted thrice annually, presenting high-value rewards.
  • Dubai Sports City Daily Draw: Holding two draws daily.
  • Dubai Gold Rush Lottery: Providing opportunities to win without a purchase.

Investment-based Lucky Draws

Various financial institutions offer millionaire draws for their investors such as Mashreq Bank's Mashreq Millionaire and Emirates Islamic Bank's Kunooz Millionaire Certificate.

Functioning of UAE Lottery

The UAE Lottery is a government-operated system open to all UAE residents, irrespective of nationality, provided they possess a valid UAE identity card.

Drawings occur multiple times monthly, adhering to specific schedules. Each ticket comprises four distinct numbers, which must be accurately marked before issuance.

During the draw, numbered balls are randomly selected, with winning combinations determined by matching ticket numbers.
Prize allocations are overseen by the Ministry of Culture and Education, with winners receiving their awards upon verification of ticket numbers.

Purchasing Procedures

  • Individuals can procure lottery tickets via various methods like:
  • Online purchase through the official UAE Lotto website.
  • Direct purchase from Dubai Duty Free offices or retail outlets at Dubai International Airport.
  • Telephone hotline orders.
  • In-person acquisition from designated lottery stores across the UAE.

Foreigners and Tourists

Foreign nationals may participate in lotteries depending on the lottery's jurisdiction and residency status. In the UAE, foreigners can engage in draws through platforms like the Big Ticket website, catering to diverse nationalities, including non-residents.

Nonetheless, participants should be cognizant of local laws and regulations before partaking in any lottery activity, ensuring compliance and awareness of potential fees or taxes.

Tourists visiting the UAE can also participate in lotteries, with the Dubai Duty-Free website facilitating ticket purchases.

Emirates Loto

Emirates Loto, UAE's first Sharia-approved lottery, distinguishes itself from traditional lotteries by operating as a collectables scheme. It is a fatwa-approved lottery scheme offering the chance to enter a weekly live draw.

Emirates Loto upholds Sharia law and complies with UAE governmental regulations, allowing users to accrue points through the purchase of collectables from an online platform or over 15,000 registered physical outlets. Upon accumulating a specified number of points, participants become eligible to partake in the lottery.

While UAE lottery laws maintain strict prohibitions on gambling, there are some exceptions. However, the objective remains to ensure fair conduct, transparency and utilisation of proceeds for public welfare. Unauthorised participation in gambling activities beyond sanctioned lotteries can incur severe penalties.

(The writer is a legal associate at NYK Law Firm, one of the top legal consultants in Dubai)

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