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Saudis divided on national card-playing competition

Mixed reactions follow announcement of event for first time in the kingdom, with a combined prize of more than $270,000.

Saudi Arabia has announced it will host a card-playing national competition for the first time, in a move that has officially legalised the activity that was previously banned under religious pretexts.

Turki al-Sheikh, the kingdom's General Sports Authority's chairman, announced the competition on Thursday.

According to the statement, the winners of the first four places would receive a combined prize of more than one million Saudi riyals ($270,000).

People in the country took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the upcoming tournament, which will take place between April 4 and 8, 2018, under the supervision of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS).

While some welcomed the move, others criticised it, saying it was "absurd" and considered it a form of gambling.

Translation: "This is what we have come to, legalising a game that is unlawful in religion even without prize, yet we have legalised it while giving away prizes. God forgive us."

Some mocked the decision altogether and used humour to highlight the religious contradictions.

Translation: "Even gambling is now halal…This is a big deal…awaiting the launch of the first casino."

Translation: "Soon [it'll be] welcome to Las Vegas!!"

Others were eager to compete.

Translation: "We want the competition's rule manual."

Translation: "I'm joining and from now, consider the first place taken."

Saudi Arabia appears to be relaxing some norms as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan.

Since coming to power in June last year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has reversed a long-standing rule and announced that the kingdom will allow women to drive.

He also lifted a 35-year-old cinema ban.

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