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Genting Chairman Lim Shows Interest in UAE Casino Market

Genting Group has expressed potential interest in entering the United Arab Emirates (UAE) casino market if casino resorts are approved there.

Genting Chairman Lim Shows Interest in UAE Casino Market

At the company’s annual meeting last month, Chairman Lim Kok Thay informed Genting Singapore shareholders that the UAE could play a role in the operator’s integrated resort (IR) expansion plans, which might also include Thailand. "The Company would be happy to work on an IR development in the Middle East, leveraging the Company’s experience in nongaming offerings,” according to the minutes of the annual group meeting released last Friday by Genting.


Genting Singapore, a subsidiary of Malaysia-based Genting Bhd, operates Resorts World Sentosa, one of the two casino resorts in Singapore. Lim added that it remains uncertain which division of Genting would seek a UAE license.


According to the meeting minutes, Lim "noted that an international tender for a casino-only development is unlikely." This suggests that if casino gaming is approved in the UAE, operators would likely pursue plans similar to those of Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN). Wynn is expected to secure the first UAE gaming permit if such licenses are approved, in partnership with Marjan LLC and RAK Hospitality Holding LLC for the Wynn Al Marjan Island integrated resort in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. The Las Vegas-based company’s financial contribution to that project is projected to be $900 million, making it a minority investor.


Like Wynn, Genting has strong competencies in nongaming offerings, which could appeal to regulators if the UAE opens up to casino gaming. Wynn’s UAE venue is anticipated to cover 5.6 million square feet, with the casino comprising just 4% of that space, aligning with regulatory expectations that casinos should not be the centerpieces of integrated resorts.


Currently, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah seem most likely to approve casinos, while Dubai, the UAE’s luxurious tourist hub, is delaying its embrace of Las Vegas-style gaming venues.


A UAE entry could be strategically advantageous for Genting, as some estimates suggest the casino market there could eventually surpass the size of Singapore’s. Resorts World Sentosa operates alongside Las Vegas Sands’ Marina Bay Sands in a duopoly fashion.


For any operator considering the UAE, several questions remain. It has been over nine months since the establishment of the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), the UAE’s first gaming regulatory body. However, there has been no clarity on when gaming licenses will be awarded and the related process.

There are expectations that this could change before the end of the year, with the first casino permit potentially being granted to Wynn, giving the operator an advantage over prospective competitors in the UAE.



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