Casino ships too close to home?
The Arabian Gulf is home to a growing number of ocean liners with onboard gambling dens –something which is likely to attract the disapproval of some.
January 21, 2010 1:45 by kippreport
Today’s front page story in the XPRESS newspaper is provocative, to say the least.
The colorful report describes the casinos onboard a new cruise liner called Brilliance of the Seas. And the liner’s home port is… Dubai.
Apparently, the ship is part of a “growing armada of international cruise liners [that] are quietly operating on-board casinos” in the Arabian Gulf. The Brilliance of the Seas comes “replete with every game of chance found routinely on the ruby-red carpets of Monte Carlo and Las Vegas”.
Michael Bayley of Royal Caribbean Cruises, which operates the liner, says the casino is legal, given that it only opens when the ship is sailing at least 12 nautical miles from the coast – which is, technically, out of the UAE’s jurisdiction.
While casinos are illegal in the UAE, one infamous gambling establishment was in operation a few decades ago. According to Dr Christopher Davidson’s book Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success, “there was a casino in Ra’s al-Khaimah that often remained open throughout the night. Guests of Dubai businessmen were normally taken to dinner in Dubai or Sharjah in the evening and then driven up to the casino”.
But while Dubai has made some gambling-related investments – in 2007 the troubled Dubai World conglomerate bought a $5 billion stake in MGM Mirage, the world’s largest gaming group – there are no legally operated casinos in the UAE, and the Ra’s al-Khaimah establishment has, apparently, closed.
And so, many will be outraged by today’s report. Gambling, which is haram under Islam, is illegal in Dubai – just as it is in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Muscat and Bahrain, where the Brilliance of the Seas also docks. For some, 12 nautical miles will not be far enough.