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Has a Casino Opened for the First Time in Saudi Arabia?

Baloot Championship in SA

Has a Casino Opened for the First Time in Saudi Arabia?

A video of people engaging in card games in a hall has been seen multiple times on several posts on Twitter and Facebook, coupled with a claim that it displayed casino, or gaming arena, in Saudi Arabia. The clip has been circulated in a misleading context; the video depicted a card game competition in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and winners were awarded cash prizes. Let's not forget that gambling is highly prohibited frowned upon in the country, and in Islam. The video, which lasts for only 50 seconds, was posted on Facebook on February 18, 2020, and has had over 12,000 views and almost 390 re-shares.

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Celebrities in Saudi Arabia Gambling

An icon for Saudi Arabian television channel Al Ekhbariya TV can be noticed in the video just at the bottom right-hand corner. "Baloot" is comparable to the French Belote.  It is a standard card game among the youths in the Arabian Gulf, especially the Saudis. A copy of the video was also shared on Twitter and has had over 1,500 views.

An Arabic-speaking AFP (Agence France-Presse) journalist interpreted the title of the video as: "Women participating in the Baloot game championship." The commentator in the video can be heard clarifying that Baloot is a typical card game in the Gulf area and that this would make it the first time women would be participating in the game. In the 30-second mark of the clip, a female contestant can be seen being interviewed by the journalist. The woman claimed her husband taught her to play Baloot and also permitted her to participate in the competition. She also affirmed that that would be the first time women are allowed to participate openly.

Baloot Championship taking place in SA

According to the General Entertainment Authority of Saudi Arabia, the Baloot Championship started from February 13 to February 2020 this year, and it was held at Riyadh Front shopping. A Saudi-based English daily known as Saudi Gazette, made a publication about the competition on February 17, with the headline: "Passion grips Baloot championship as women have a face-off with men for the first time."

The first two paragraphs in the report talked about how; eagerness, joy, and passion engrossed the Riyadh Winter Baloot Championship as women have a face-off with men for the first time in one of the most popular competition in the country. "The championship took place at the Riyadh Front from February 13 to February 22, 2020. It featured gamers competing for cash prices that worth over SR2 million."

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Reports on the Baloot Championship

In other reports from English-language Saudi daily, Arab News, also made a publication on the event on February 17, 2020, with the headline that read: "Female Baloot players displayed their skills at Saudi championship."

According to the official website, the entire prize money of the championship was a total of two million Saudi riyal prize money to all the winners. Gambling is one of the activities that is banned in Saudi Arabia, and its constitution is centered on the laws of the Koran. This goes to imply that no casino has been opened in Saudi Arabia, and there may be none in the future.

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