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Why the Middle East Could be the Next Global Hotspot for iGaming

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The Middle East is rapidly carving its own niche in the global gaming landscape, fuelled by a unique set of factors that have made the region stand out.

A recent report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) predicts the gaming industry will remain the second-largest media sector globally, just behind television.

The Middle East is quickly becoming a hotbed for gamers, with the industry projected to surge past $210 billion in revenue within the next three years.

Kuwait’s Stance on Casinos

While gaming and the associated iGaming holds significant appeal in many parts of the world, it presents a complex and restricted landscape in Kuwait.
Deeply rooted in Islamic values and traditions, the country maintains a strict prohibition on many popular activities, deeming them incompatible with religious teachings.
This extends to a complete absence of brick-and-mortar casinos and a legal framework for iGaming. Despite the official stance, an undeniable demand exists within the population.
Driven by this demand, Kuwaiti citizens turn to unregulated markets, seeking thrills through offshore online platforms that accept their registration.
Poker and sports betting websites catering to this audience operate outside local laws, leaving players exposed to potential risks and lacking the protections offered by regulated markets.

Politicians in the country have previously expressed an interest in legalising gambling as well as alcohol consumption, mainly to boost the nation’s tourism sector and appeal to foreign investors.

However, those plans failed to materialise, although it is understood that the strict laws apply to the citizens only, with foreign tourists allowed to gamble online.
The country’s strong stance on gambling-related activities has forced Kuwaiti citizens to look for workarounds, landing them on the doorstep of platforms under the umbrella of the unregulated market.

However, many players can access to online casino Kuwait platforms via the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) that hide IP addresses from the government.

While countries like China prohibit the use of VPNs, they are readily accessible in Kuwait, and no laws currently prohibit their use for iGaming sites.

Kuwait’s Stance on Casinos

The Middle East is leading the global charge when it comes to iGaming, with more residents identifying as enthusiasts compared to anywhere else in the world.

This passion translates into action, as the region dominates mobile app downloads, with gaming apps accounting for a whopping 50% compared to the global average of 40%.
Big players across the region are taking notice of this dominance, making strategic investments that highlight their long-term commitment to the growth of the industry.

These unprecedented government investments not only showcase a commitment to entertainment but also position iGaming and esports as economic powerhouses, driving diversification and creating jobs.

In Saudi Arabia, the National Gaming and eSports Strategy aims not only to develop games and generate exciting entertainment but also to contribute significantly to the country’s economic diversification.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), with initiatives like AD Gaming and DMCC Gaming Centre, is not just luring international iGaming giants but fostering a homegrown talent pool, building a sustainable ecosystem for the industry to flourish.

This focus on job creation, talent development and global competitiveness reflects the wider trend of the Middle East emerging as a hub for iGaming innovation and investment.
While China currently dominates the streaming scene, the Middle East is projected to experience a staggering three-fold increase in its iGaming audience, reaching nearly 200 million by 2025.

This translates to a projected 24.5% compound annual growth rate, solidifying the region’s position as a leader in game streaming.

Moreover, the Middle East’s strategic geographical location presents a unique advantage to iGaming companies, allowing them to seamlessly cater to diverse global audiences.

Why iGaming is Poised to Boom in the Middle East

The meteoric rise of the iGaming industry in the Middle East is fuelled by several key factors.

A young and digital-savvy population, exemplified by Saudi Arabia’s staggering 70% under-30 demographic, acts as a bedrock for rapid iGaming adoption.
Additionally, rising disposable incomes and scorching temperatures incentivise people to seek indoor entertainment, with gaming becoming a natural and appealing choice.

However, the boom isn’t solely organic. Saudi Arabia, a regional powerhouse, has implemented an ambitious gaming and eSports strategy. This commitment manifests as a targeted effort to create 40,000 jobs and develop 30 domestic games by 2030.
Further underlining this dedication is the Public Investment Fund’s (PIF) whopping $38 billion investment in Savvy Games Group, showcasing a clear intent to solidify the Kingdom’s position as a major player in the global iGaming landscape.

This strategic allocation, with multiple acquisitions, signals a robust commitment to building a thriving iGaming ecosystem.

The UAE has also joined the gaming revolution. Two dedicated gaming centres, including Abu Dhabi Gaming’s hub, aim to attract global companies with enticing incentives.
The region’s existing strength in tourism is being cleverly leveraged. Combining gaming and esports experiences with renowned tourist attractions presents a unique selling point for the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

This strategic integration could attract a new wave of visitors worldwide, solidifying the Middle East’s position as a major player in the global iGaming landscape.

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