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Dubai Delays Casino Approval, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah Emerge as Contenders

Dubai has reportedly postponed its plans to approve casino resorts, temporarily impacting MGM Resorts International's ambitions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). MGM, in partnership with Wasl Hospitality and Leisure, had opened a branded hotel in Dubai in 2021, with space allocated for potential casinos should they gain regulatory approval.

Dubai Delays Casino Approval, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah Emerge as Contenders

According to unnamed sources cited by Bloomberg, Dubai has chosen to delay approval for casino gaming but is considering the possibility of introducing a poker series in the emirate. Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah are now seen as the frontrunners among the seven emirates to potentially establish casino resorts.

At the recent Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle had expressed optimism about the UAE's potential to house up to four integrated resorts. However, Dubai's decision to delay casino efforts is seen as a setback for operators eyeing the region, as Dubai is the most-visited and glamorous of the UAE emirates.

Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah have now emerged as strong contenders. Ras Al Khaimah, the capital city of its namesake emirate, offers various tourist attractions, including an aquarium and the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

Gambling Compliance

The delay in Dubai's casino plans doesn't appear to impact Wynn Resorts, which has recently broken ground on its Wynn Al Marjan Island property in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. Expected to open in early 2027, the $3.9 billion venue is anticipated to be the first in the UAE to feature casino gaming. Although the casino at Wynn Al Marjan Island will be larger than that at Wynn Las Vegas, gaming will represent a relatively small portion of the resort's overall offering, with an emphasis on luxury accommodations, high-end retail, and fine dining.

Despite Dubai's delay in casino approval, the outlook for casino gaming in the UAE remains positive in the long term. Analysts and industry experts are optimistic about the region's potential for casino revenue, with comparisons to Singapore's gaming success. Long-term prospects suggest the UAE could generate substantial gaming revenue, possibly exceeding that of Singapore. However, surpassing the remarkable profitability achieved by Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore may present a significant challenge.

"Benchmarking against Singapore, UAE’s gaming revenue could reach $6.6 billion, and implied gaming outlay per tourist in UAE might fall below that in Singapore and Macau," according to Bloomberg Intelligence.



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