The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is considering granting one casino license to each of its seven emirates in an effort to tap the lucrative gaming tourism market while keeping the industry’s growth under control, according to a new report.
But there is no guarantee each emirate would make use of its license, with Dubai said to be putting any immediate thoughts of introducing casinos on hold for now.
The report comes after the UAE revealed in early September the establishment of an official gambling regulator – the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) – to be led by former MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren and tasked with introducing a regulatory framework for commercial gaming as well as a national lottery.
Leading US casino operator Wynn Resorts is already developing what looks certain to become the UAE’s first integrated resort with gaming on the man-made Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah. The $3.9 billion resort, due to open in 2027, will feature a luxury hotel with more than 1000 rooms, a high-end shopping mall, state-of-the-art meeting and convention facility, an exclusive spa, more than 10 restaurants and lounges, an array of entertainment choices and other amenities.
Also looking at introducing casino gaming is Abu Dhabi, the report says, with Yas Island – home to the Yas Marina Formula One Circuit among other attractions – among the main sites being considered.
As for Dubai, any alleged reluctance hasn’t deterred MGM Resorts, which is developing a 1500-hotel near the emirates’ famous Burj Al Arab building and has made no secret of its desire to add gaming.
Speaking at a conference session during G2E in Las Vegas last month, MGM CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle said: “We’re very progressive and excited by what could happen there. We think there’ll be three or four (casinos) in the emirates. It’s up to each ruler to decide what they want to do and where they want to do it. We’re positive. I’d love to be in Dubai with an operating company that has a casino in it, but one step and one day at a time.”