The United Arab Emirates (UAE) may soon transition from its historical prohibition of casino gaming to potentially hosting up to four casino resorts. MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle shared this perspective at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas.
MGM Resorts is currently developing a hotel in Dubai through a partnership with the Wasl Asset Management Group. Hornbuckle described this project as having the potential to include a casino, stating, "We were there early. We have a project, now underway. This island has an MGM, a Bellagio, and an Aria on it. We're now building a podium and pedestal that could house a casino. We think there will be three or four [casinos] in the Emirates." MGM Resorts has set aside 150,000 square feet of space at the Dubai property that could potentially accommodate a casino, contingent on approval from UAE leadership.
This shift in UAE's stance on casino gaming began with Wynn Resorts announcing plans for Wynn Al Marjan Island in 2021. While the specifics of whether this venue will be permitted to include a casino remain unclear, construction started earlier this year, and the resort is expected to open in early 2027. Additionally, the UAE established its first gaming regulatory agency, the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), with former MGM CEO Jim Murren as its chairman. This development signifies the UAE's increasing openness to casino gaming and its potential to become the integrated resort hub of the Arab world.
While MGM Resorts is eager to capitalize on this opportunity, the government's exact stance on gaming remains uncertain. Hornbuckle mentioned that MGM is flexible in its approach and prepared for various scenarios, including taking equity in a gaming venue or leasing it. Although rumors of a formalized gaming decree by UAE leaders are circulating, the official release is still pending.
A survey conducted by Knight Frank earlier this year indicates that 59% of respondents believe Abu Dhabi will eventually host at least one gaming venue, while 58% have similar expectations for Dubai. Furthermore, 48% anticipate that integrated resorts may be established in the other five emirates of the UAE. Wynn Al Marjan Island, situated on a manmade island in Ras Al Khaimah, is among the projects that could potentially introduce casino gaming to the region.
By fLEXI tEAM