United Arab Emirates Adds Ex-Missouri Lawman to Gaming Regulatory Team

Posted on: November 29, 2023, 06:55h. 

Last updated on: November 29, 2023, 10:11h.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) may not yet be ready to officially announce the introduction of casinos. But it definitely appears to be headed in that direction. The new General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) continues to expand, recently adding a retired Missouri lawman to its ranks.

A view of Dubai at night
A view of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates at night. The UAE is expanding its gaming regulatory body, with no definitive plans to yet introduce casinos. (Image: Getty Images)

On Monday, Ed Aylward revealed his upcoming affiliation with the GCGRA through a post on his LinkedIn account. He lists his role as Head of Investigations, a position he began in October.

After a 30-year tenure, Aylward last year bid farewell to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. With the department, his responsibility entailed scrutinizing the credentials of licensees, suppliers, and vendors, in addition to conducting comprehensive background checks.

UAE Quickly Establishing Gaming Regulator

The sole authority responsible for governing, authorizing, overseeing, and managing gambling activities in the UAE is the GCGRA. Recently, it has been discreetly building its workforce, which includes a talent acquisition and management manager, along with a gaming coordination specialist.

Recently joining the group was Ian Tannock, the former Head of Responsible Gaming for JOI Gaming Ltd in the Netherlands. It’s the online arm of JVH Gaming & Entertainment Group, which operates such brands as Jack’s Casino, Flamingo Casino, and more.

Tannock joined the GCGRA in August, according to his LinkedIn profile. That put him in a group that includes Director of Communications and Marketing Colin Espiner, a former head of communications at SkyCity Entertainment and advisor to Abu Dhabi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Also part of the regulator’s growing composition is Myriam Dimitri, who serves as its Head of Talent Management, Acquisition, and Organization Design. Serena Paul is another recent hire, joining in October as a Human Resources Business Partner.

The former CEO of MGM Resorts International, Jim Murren, is now the chairman of the board of the GCGRA, while Kevin Mullally is its CEO. He and Aylward likely crossed paths more than once, as Mullally was with the Missouri Gaming Commission for 12 years. He served as its executive director for almost six of those.

Dubai Embraces China

There were previously rumors that MGM could make history as the first casino operator in Dubai, one of the seven emirates in the UAE. It had established a close relationship with Wasl Hospitality and Leisure, which led to the launch of an MGM hotel there two years ago.

Dubai then reportedly decided to hold off on its casino plans. Other emirates, primarily Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, continued to press forward.

A new report coming out of Dubai may indicate that the emirate was only buying itself some time. Meed, which bills itself as the “world’s leading source of Middle East business intelligence,” reported Tuesday that Dubai is aligning itself with China.

Specifically, Wasl has given a massive contract to a Chinese real estate development firm, China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC). The Beijing-based company will get ARD4.4 billion (US$1.2 billion) to build out The Island, a scheme that, in theory, would include MGM, Bellagio, and Aria hotel brands.

The contract is the largest Dubai has awarded in five years. It comes close to the $1.36-billion contract given to a local contractor for the One Za’beel Tower project in 2017.

CSCEC is the largest construction company in the world and is involved in projects in Iraq, Egypt, Bosnia, Nicaragua, and other countries. It’s also been the subject of several scandals, including at least one in the U.S., and was, a decade ago, on the World Bank’s corruption and fraud blacklist.

It’s also the same company former POTUS Donald Trump tapped to build the Trump World Golf Club Dubai.