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Lottoland founder bets on softened gambling rules in UAE

David von Rosen Supplied
Von Rosen's Lottoland business is licensed in 15 markets on five continents and serves more than 18 million customers
  • David von Rosen wants to bring ‘regulated’ Lottoland to Emirates
  • Gaming and gambling businesses expect $1bn revenue this year
  • He predicts Dubai will have more tech unicorns than UK and US

The entrepreneur behind the global lottery betting platform Lottoland is confident that he will one day be able to offer the service in the UAE.

David von Rosen-von Hoewel, an international investor and founder of businesses in fashion, finance and gaming, said plans for the UAE’s first casino in Ras Al Khaimah put forward by US-based operator Wynn to open in 2027 were a clear signal that rules were softening.

“Casinos are a much harder form of gambling than lotteries. So, yes, we definitely see a time when we will be able to offer our services in the UAE,” he told AGBI.

While gambling is currently not allowed in the UAE, there are a number of sanctioned raffles held by companies such as Mahzooz, formerly known as Emirates Loto, which offer multi-million dirham prizes.

Von Rosen, who has homes in Dubai and Switzerland, founded Lottoland in 2013. It allows customers to bet on the results of the biggest lotteries from around the world. 

The business is now licensed in 15 markets on five continents and serves more than 18 million customers.

In the last decade, von Rosen also founded other gaming and gambling companies around the world and has a budgeted portfolio revenue in excess of $1 billion for 2023. 

“We know the market really well and we want to bring our capability to innovate and the larger jackpots which we offer, to Dubai, but only in a regulated way,” he said.

Pro-business policies

Von Rosen, a German national, admits to being a Dubai fanboy.

“The policies and initiatives implemented by Dubai’s authorities over the last five years have made the city the best place in the world to start and grow a business, particularly in the tech sector.

“The emirate feels today how business hubs like San Francisco, Berlin, Singapore, and New York felt 10 years ago.

“I’ve never experienced such energy and growth as in Dubai. People want to succeed and progress. I don’t feel this any more in Europe or anywhere else,” he said.

He said the ingredients to become the next global hub for entrepreneurs – talent and capital – were already in abundance.

“There’s a ‘let’s get things done’ attitude. Young motivated people are coming to Dubai every day from India, Pakistan and further east. They are much hungrier than those in Europe and the US, who only tend to care about their salary and holiday entitlement,” he explained. 

Von Rosen believes it’s only a matter of time before Dubai generates more unicorns (startups that achieve a $1 billion value) than Silicon Valley or London.

“The city’s business-first tax and regulation system massively reduce costs for startups, making it far easier for businesses to reach profitability,” he said. “Tech startups, particularly software and web-based businesses, can feasibly become cash flow positive in Dubai today within a matter of weeks.”

This is a big win for the tech industry, he believes.

“It means founders aren’t dependent on external funding to scale, preventing counter-productive in-fighting between countless shareholders. And it reduces the number of overvalued VC-driven companies in the market.”

David von RosenSupplied
Von Rosen likes the ‘let’s get things done’ attitude in Dubai

Von Rosen, who was selected in 2008 as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum alongside the likes of Elon Musk, Angela Merkel and Mark Zuckerberg, has deployed about AED300 million ($82 million) in investments in the region so far but is “looking to do much more”.

His latest venture is a real estate business called 25 Degrees, which aims to buy older beachfront villas on Palm Jumeirah, renovate them and sell them on, with the first investment exits expected in the third quarter.

He said investor appetite had led to the growth of the business model from a couple of properties to a portfolio of upwards of 20.

Longer-term, he intends to develop the business to offer comprehensive relocation services.

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