What is the significance of Saudi Arabia’s recent $500M eSports project in the Middle East? It has been announced by the country’s largest private equity firm that Riyadh will be home to a $500 million esports city. Currently, ex-pat Saudis are turning to overseas-operated betting sites to place wagers on eSports tournaments worldwide. However, with Saudi Arabia poised to become the global hub of eSports, how long can the country prohibit its citizens from engaging in eSports betting?

Saudi Arabia’s $500 million eSports Project

The projected $500 million eSports city is a bold idea that aspires to position Saudi Arabia as the top site for major events and tournaments. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2024, after which it may be chosen to host the annual World Cyber Games. The city will be large enough to accommodate 20,000 people and will be built to accommodate a range of games. According to several stakeholders, the eSports metropolis would draw a big number of eSports players and teams from around the world. It would be a city within a city, according to Mohammed AlQahtani, CEO of Saudi Arabia Holding Co. He feels it will be an excellent opportunity for talented young Saudi youngsters to explore their potential and achieve international credentials.

Potential Implications for the Middle East Region

The eSports city is expected to offer job opportunities in Saudi Arabia and around the Middle East. Many people will be hired by the city, and other related businesses are likely to pop up, creating even more jobs for Middle Easterners. The project is also projected to benefit the country’s economy through entertainment, events, and tourism.  Saudi Arabia expects to make a lot of revenue from eSports by organizing a lot of top tier events. Saudi Arabia will also act as a tourism destination beacon for the Middle East. The eSports city will complement other regional developments that provide world-class entertainment, such as the upcoming Ras Al Khaimah Resort in the United Arab Emirates. Other countries in the region may eventually build similar projects, boosting the Middle East’s economy even further.

eSports’ Importance in Saudi Arabia Today

Saudi Arabia has fully embraced eSports and is swiftly establishing itself as a global eSports center. Until recently, the kingdom relied heavily on oil and petroleum exports. However, Saudi Arabia is trying to reduce its reliance under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. This goal is part of the country’s Vision 2030 initiative, which seeks to diversify the kingdom’s economy.

The gaming and eSports businesses are critical to the current regime’s economic goals. It is one of the key industries that the government intends to help it achieve its diversification objectives. As a result, the government is heavily investing in the sector’s expansion. Fortunately, as more people have become interested in eSports and mobile gaming, this trend has intensified.

The Impact of the eSports Industry on Saudi Arabia’s International Reputation

The eSports industry is one of the key channels via which the Saudi government can improve its international reputation. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have come under fire for a range of actions, including the implementation of anti-homosexuality legislation. eSports, on the other hand, can help to remove such negative notions and present a positive image of the monarchy to other countries throughout the world.

Increased funding in eSports is seen as a sportwashing strategy by critics. According to Amnesty International, such activities are used by some regimes to shift attention away from human rights issues. Saudi Arabia has been accused of numerous human rights breaches, including its involvement in Yemen’s devastating conflict. Investing in sports can help divert from such controversies.

The Prospect of Expanding Access to eSports Betting in Saudi Arabia

The current situation of Saudi expatriates resorting to offshore betting sites for esports wagering brings attention to the potential challenges and legal implications associated with esports betting in Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, according to industry experts in Arabic betting and gambling, the recent investment of billions of dollars in a Saudi esports project does not signify a change in the country’s stance on regulating esports betting. Saudi Arabia adheres to a comprehensive anti-gambling policy that encompasses all forms of sports betting, including esports. The involvement of private investors in projects like the $500 million initiative in Riyadh will not have an impact on this policy. However, there are various implications regarding esports betting within and beyond Saudi Arabia. The presence of foreigners and expatriates participating in betting on tournaments held in Saudi Arabia, including Saudi Arabian esports teams, may pose a potential challenge for the government. However, it is not yet considered a game changer – at least, not at this stage.


Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in order to capitalize on the burgeoning eSports and gaming sectors. Investing in the ongoing $500 million eSports city project is one of several investments expected to pay off within a decade. Although not a game changer in the Middle East, it is certain to have an impact on Saudi Arabia’s economy and serve to improve the country’s image.