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UAE opportunity in spotlight for new gambling VC Ixia Capital

| By Kyle Goldsmith
New venture capital (VC) fund Ixia Capital is looking to tap into the “very bright” future for igaming in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) via its $20m (£15.8m/€18.7m) fund.
Ixia Capital UAE

The fund, operated by a handful of gaming and financing veterans, will focus on “high-growth” gambling companies at the seed to Series A stage. It expects to launch over 25 startups in the online gaming, web3 and crypto and blockchain spaces over the next five years.

Marketwise, the fund is focused on opportunities in the soon to be regulated UAE. “While it is unclear what the regulations will look like, this is one of the most promising regions and operators are already all geared up. The future of gambling in the UAE is indeed very bright,” Ixia Capital CEO and venture partner Mona Motwani told iGB.

In September, the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) was established in the UAE to establish a regulatory framework for national lottery and commercial gaming in the region.

“The legal casino market is going to be a massive thing in the UAE,” Motwani said.

“Even though Ixia is a global fund, our focus in phase one is particularly on the UAE, India and Africa because that is where our core expertise lies.”

Team spans gaming and funding backgrounds

Motwani boasts a wealth of experience having spent seven years at Sportradar leading government relations on the Indian subcontinent. Additional fund partners include Tyler Dean, Imran Bukhari and Biren Gala.

Dean comes from a strong VC fund background, having advised and managed multiple VC and growth equity funds spanning various industries in the US.

Bukhari has a background in tech development having spent seven years as a software consultant for Bet365. His igaming platform provider firm NE Group has developed various solutions to igaming operators in Africa, including 888’s African JV 888bets.

Gala has 10 years of private equity funding experience with Mayfair Equity Advisory in the UK.

The fund’s targets

The fund’s US-based venture studio arm Ixia Studio has made various investments and is working towards launching various projects including games studio FasFas Games, as well as a Sports NFT Trading Exchange, a gaming loyalty rewards platform, sports investment thought leadership platform and a sports coverage and games engagement app.

Ixia declined to provide more detail around the various projects in motion.

Motwani outlined that investments had already been made through Ixia Studio, with launch expected in the coming months.

“We are interested in both B2B and B2C [start-ups],” Motwani said.

“We are excited to explore the projects which are unique and a combination of esports, gaming, web3, crypto, blockchain,” she said.

UAE regulated gaming likely in the near-term

A June report by investment firm and real estate specialists CBRE said it expected regulated gaming to come to the UAE in the near-term.

“Decriminalisation of gaming will likely take the form of a federal decree or legislative changes to the criminal and penal code. Given the increase in activity in the region and in public company commentary, we anticipate these legislative changes to be forthcoming in the next few months,” the report said.

CBRE said a well-regulated online gaming environment could be up and running quickly thanks to current ease of access to illegal or gray market online gaming providers in the UAE accessible by VPN or proxy.

“We suspect cleaning this up will be a major priority for the GCGRA,” it added.

At present, Wynn Resorts is developing an integrated resort in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, to be completed by 2027.

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