Why the Middle East could be the next global hotspot for iGaming

Close-up of an Asian young man playing a game with a 5G smartphone in the metro. Close-up of Asian young man using 5G smartphone in metro

The Middle East is quickly carving out its own niche in the global gaming landscape, driven by a number of unique factors that make the region stand out.

A recent report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) predicts that the gaming industry will remain the second largest media sector in the world, just behind television.

The Middle East is quickly becoming a hotbed for gamers, with the industry forecast to grow to over $210 billion in revenue over the next three years.

Kuwait’s attitude towards casinos

While gaming and its associated iGaming have wide appeal in many parts of the world, in Kuwait it represents a complex and limited landscape.
The country is deeply rooted in Islamic values ​​and traditions and strictly bans many popular activities, deeming them incompatible with religious teachings.
This extends to the complete abandonment of stationary casinos and a legal framework for iGaming. Despite the official position, there is an undeniable demand among the population.
Driven by this demand, Kuwaiti citizens are turning to unregulated markets and seeking thrills through offshore online platforms that accept their registration.
Poker and sports betting websites that target this audience operate outside local laws, exposing players to potential risks and lacking the protections offered by regulated markets.

The country’s politicians have previously expressed interest in legalizing gambling and alcohol consumption, primarily to boost the country’s tourism sector and attract foreign investors.

However, these plans have not come to fruition, although it is believed that the strict laws will only apply to citizens and foreign tourists will be allowed to gamble online.
The country’s strong stance against gambling-related activities has forced Kuwaiti citizens to look for workarounds, which has brought them to the doorstep of platforms under the umbrella of the unregulated market.

However, many players can access Kuwait casino platforms through virtual private networks (VPNs), which hide IP addresses from the government.

While countries like China prohibit the use of VPNs, in Kuwait they are easily accessible and there is currently no law prohibiting their use for iGaming websites.

Kuwait’s attitude towards casinos

The Middle East is a world leader when it comes to iGaming. Compared to other parts of the world, more residents there describe themselves as enthusiasts.

This passion is translated into action as the region dominates mobile app downloads, with gaming apps accounting for a whopping 50%, compared to the global average of 40%.
Major players across the region are taking note of this dominance and making strategic investments that underscore their long-term commitment to growing the industry.

These unprecedented government investments not only demonstrate a commitment to entertainment, but also position iGaming and esports as economic engines that drive diversification and create jobs.

In Saudi Arabia, the National Gaming and eSports Strategy aims not only to develop games and create exciting entertainment, but also to make a significant contribution to the country’s economic diversification.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is not only attracting international iGaming giants with initiatives such as AD Gaming and DMCC Gaming Center, but is also fostering a domestic talent pool, creating a sustainable ecosystem for the industry to thrive.

This focus on job creation, talent development and global competitiveness reflects the broader trend of the Middle East becoming a hub for iGaming innovation and investment.
While China currently dominates the streaming scene, the Middle East is expected to see a staggering tripling of its iGaming audience, reaching nearly 200 million by 2025.

This represents a forecast compound annual growth rate of 24.5% and solidifies the region’s position as a market leader in game streaming.

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

Why iGaming is poised for a boom in the Middle East

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

A young and digitally savvy population, as reflected in Saudi Arabia’s impressive 70% under-30 population, provides the foundation for rapid iGaming adoption.
Additionally, rising disposable incomes and scorching temperatures are driving people to seek entertainment indoors, with gaming becoming a natural and attractive choice.

However, the boom is not just organic. Saudi Arabia, a regional powerhouse, has implemented an ambitious gaming and eSports strategy. This commitment is manifested in a targeted effort to create 40,000 jobs and develop 30 national games by 2030.
Further evidence of this commitment is the Public Investment Fund’s (PIF) whopping $38 billion investment in Savvy Games Group, demonstrating a clear intention to cement the Kingdom’s position as a major player in the global iGaming landscape .

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

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

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

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