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14 January, 2004

Casino Al Royale

According to Official Expat History (rumourmongering, gossip and half-truth) Al Muntaha restaurant at the Burj Al Arab was originally intended to be a casino. Al Muntaha is the pod-like structure that sticks out at the top of the back of the Burj, and does the world's finest Friday brunch - where people get gold leaf stuck in their teeth rather than spinach. It is a restaurant of hideous decor, somewhere between a Britanny Ferry "Pullman Lounge" and Sydney's Star Shitty Casino.

So legend has it, the idea was to get around the UAE's strict anti-gambling laws by having the casino effectively off-shore, as the Burj is on an artificial island. Sadly, it transpired that international waters start somewhere a little further than thirty yards from the beach. Various histories have the hotel - US$1 billion/10 billion/100 billion, pick your price - being paid for by the Uber-Ruler Sheikh Zayed (to compensate for its construction cost not being recouped by casino funds) and then being given back to him as a gift (such that he could also absorb its vast operating costs).

With Arabs being the perfect target market for gambling: rich, superstitious, bored, somewhat lazy and wasteful of money, with a general get-rich-quick mentality (think oil just lying there in the ground) something was needed to fill the gap.

Thus: lotteries, prize draws and raffles. Win a car, win one of 100 cars, win your weight in gold, win 100,000 dollars, win a million dirhams, spend more than 100dh at the Dubai Shopping Festival and enter a draw to win win win win win win win.

But now, unsurprisingly, they are at last coming under the mullah microscope. The National Consultative Council wants the government to "clarify and review" its rulings on raffles, lotteries, competitions and other promotions offering attractive prizes via telephone, radio and print media.

They claim to be concerned at those on low-incomes being lured into spending money on premium rate phone calls to enter radio competitions. More likely they are hugely embarrassed by UAE accents on Dubai FM continually guessing the wrong year to a Phil Collins ballad, not knowing the date of JFK's assassination, and failing to guess the name of the seventh Beatle.

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Blogger Unknown said...

how far offshore can you gamble then? or at least where are international waters

12 January, 2009 08:53  

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