Fact Check: Did Wahabi Muftis Approve the First Gambling Centre in Saudi Arabia?

A video has been circulating on social media with claims that it shows the inauguration of Saudi Arabia's first casino. The video in question has been viewed thousands of times. Gambling, by all means, is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. The video, which was first shared on Facebook on May 25, showed a crowd of men wearing white robes and keffiyehs, a traditional Middle Eastern headdress, and playing cards.

Casino (representational picture) Pixabay

"First gambling center of Saudi Arabia inaugurated in Jeddah on the Fatwa of Wahabbi Muftis," the caption on the viral post read. 'Fatwa' refers to ruling on a point of Islamic law, whereas, 'Wahabi' is the puritanical school of Sunni Islam predominant in Saudi Arabia. 'Mufti' is an Islamic legal authority. The video was circulated with the same claim on various social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.

Fact Check: The claims are false

According to AFP Pakistan, a reverse search image of the video in question revealed that it was first posted on Facebook on April 7, 2018, by channel Life in Saudi Arabia. The video showed scenes from a 'Baloot Championship' in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. "Baloot Championship kicks off in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia," the caption alongside the post read. An English-language daily newspaper from Pakistan, The News International also published the video in a news story about the championship on April 6, 2018. "Saudi Arabia hosts first-ever card tournament," the headline of the story read. 'Baloot' is a popular card game among the Gulf youth, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

According to reports by Saudi Gazette and Arab News, the tournament shown in the video was held at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Riyadh in April 2018. The reports further stated that the total prize money pool for the tournament was over $270,000.

This article was first published on November 16, 2021