Your Guide to Middle East Gambling
May 18, 2021
The Middle East isn’t often thought of as a particularly sporting region, nor one for gambling, but with a stark increase in interest in popular global sports, aspects of gambling have also seen an uptick. While the most prominent nations of the region have long been involved in international sports, they’re now becoming major players.
The focus turned to the Middle East when Qatar shockingly won the bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, having never qualified for the event in the past. Then there’s the United Arab Emirates, which has hosted the colossal T20 cricket competition from India, the IPL, in 2014 and 2020. As a result, more people are interested in backing their predictions, and as most sports betting platforms feature a casino, there are more casino gamers.
Here, we’re looking into which sports have risen to the fore and are appealing to the bettors of the region, as well as why the casino sections have become so appealing.
An affinity for the most popular sports in the world
Despite a somewhat lack of success on the international stage, football is by far the most popular sport in the Middle East. Perhaps the leading nation in the region, at least for investment and grandeur, is the UAE. Not only does the Abu Dhabi United Group own Manchester City, but the national team is well-supported and gets to play in several exemplary venues, including the Zayed Sports City complex.
Next in line, popularity-wise, in the UAE is cricket. Having hosted the IPL twice and with the country having a large Indian expatriate nation, it perhaps shouldn’t be surprising that some 57 per cent of Emiratis surveyed identified themselves as cricket fans. After football, cricket is a sport that’s synonymous with betting, like horse racing. The biggest event of the year here is the Dubai World Cup – the world’s richest horse race.
In the relatively small nation of Qatar, football is the big focus, especially as the World Cup’s on the way. While it has been a relatively obscure nation on the global stage in the past, the Qatar national team has suddenly become a dominant force in the region. In 2019, Qatar flew to the AFC Asian Cup final and triumphed over the dominant Japan 3-1. This followed a run to third place in the 2015 edition. Furthermore, former Barcelona playmaker Xavi not only played for local team Al Sadd from 2015 to 2019, but he’s since become the manager.
Saudi Arabia is another emerging hotbed for sports, particularly football, as the country continues to attract top talents and even top clubs. In 2018 and 2019, Supercoppa Italiana came to The Kingdom, being played in Jeddah and Riyadh. The national top flight, the Saudi Pro League, has also reeled in some top talents, including Ahmed Musa, Djaniny Tavares, Nordin Amrabat, M’Baye Niang, André Carrillo, Éver Banega, Odion Ighalo, and Ahmed Hegazy.
With so much interest in football, as well as other sports like horse racing, cricket, and basketball, the Middle East naturally has an audience for sports betting. As we explain on the Matched Bets terminology page, Skrill and Neteller are two of the primary internet wallet providers, and as they’re widely available in the Middle East, they’ve helped prospective sports bettors to back their predictions online.
Discovering the online gaming scene
Most sports betting sites have an integrated gaming section, or at least a partner gaming website, so as more people sought to claim sports bonuses and free bets, they’d also encounter casino gaming. Some of the largest online gambling brands in the world have recognised this new audience and have made their platforms available to the region, featuring convenient payment options and popular games.
Like the betting platforms, the trusted online casinos also offer Middle Eastern players bonuses. As detailed in the regional casino guide Arabian Betting, players can accept a welcome bonus when they register at any of the recommended casinos. Most of these are matched-deposit bonuses, but some also offer free spins, with the most popular free spin slots being Book of Dead and Starburst.
The Middle East’s casino gaming scene is also already competitive enough for brands to feel the need to offer further bonuses to existing players. These loyalty perks include cashback bonuses, free spins, reload bonuses, refer-a-friend bonuses, and payment method bonuses. While each site offers something a bit different for its loyalty programmes, most offer a way to get additional playing funds without additional cost.
With such a rapid increase in the interest in sports, as well as the novelty of casino gaming in the region, it makes sense that online gambling has found an audience in the Middle East.