x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Gaming machines seized from Abu Dhabi bars and hotels

No arrests made, but police say new rules are to be announced.

ABU DHABI // Police have seized dozens of gaming machines from several hotels and bars in the capital. Officers confiscated the video poker machines from several businesses on Tuesday, bar and hotel staff said. Hoteliers said they believed the raids were carried out across the emirate and were the result of a policy change, which meant the machines could no longer be used legally. No arrests were made and the businesses remained open.

"I have no idea why this happened because we have had a permit for over a year to have them," said Hassan Raafat, general manager of the Sands Hotel. "Two police officers came at 9.30pm and took the machines out the back door. The seizure happened quietly and our guests did not feel anything. The police were very cordial, saying, 'Hello, how are you?', and explained that it wasn't just our machines that were being taken away but the machines all over Abu Dhabi."

Mr Raafat said his machines were entertainment machines. "No one wins cash." "People play for points," he said. "For each Dh100 people receive 2,000 points. If they play and win enough points, they receive prizes like a pen, a free drink or even a mobile." At the Arcadia Restaurant and Bar, the gaming room was empty yesterday. A barmaid said the police had removed nine machines the night before. PC Joshee, 49ers accounts manager, said four machines were removed from the bar, adding that they had brought in Dh10,000 to Dh12,000 a month of additional income.

"Each month varied of course according to how many people played and for how long. In order to operate the machines legally we had to pay a government tax and a rental fee to the company that owned them." Abu Dhabi Police would not comment immediately on the raids, but a spokesman said a press release on the new gaming policy was being prepared. Gambling for cash prizes is illegal in the UAE. @Email:eghalib@thenational.ae