Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah Lead as Dubai Delays Approval for Casino Resort Projects

Dubai Delays Approval of Casino Resorts, Impacting MGM Resorts International’s Plans

Posted on: November 2, 2023, 03:54h. 

Last updated on: November 2, 2023, 04:37h.

In a setback for MGM Resorts International’s ambitions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai has announced a delay in approving casino resorts.

Dubai Esports Festival
The Dubai skyline at dusk. The emirate is delaying casino plans. (Image: PropertyNews.ae)

MGM Resorts International, in partnership with Wasl Hospitality and Leisure, opened a branded hotel in Dubai in 2021, with hopes of establishing a casino resort. However, with Dubai’s delay in approving casinos, the plans have been put on hold, giving Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah the opportunity to become the frontrunners in casino resort development in the UAE.

Dubai’s decision to postpone casino gaming has fueled speculation that it may consider hosting a poker series. However, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah now appear to be the leading contenders among the seven emirates to have the first casino resorts.

At the recent Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle anticipated that the UAE could eventually accommodate up to four integrated resorts. While Dubai’s delay is disappointing for operators, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah offer their own unique attractions and are emerging as strong contenders.

According to Bloomberg, Abu Dhabi is actively exploring the possibility of opening a casino, with potential sites including Yas Island and the city’s port area.

Ras Al Khaimah, the sixth-largest city in the UAE, is also positioning itself as a potential casino resort destination. Known for its tourist attractions such as an aquarium and the Burj Khalifa, the city is gaining attention in the industry.

While Dubai’s delay may have temporarily set back casino development in the UAE, it does not affect Wynn Resorts’ plans. The groundbreaking for Wynn Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah has already taken place, and the $3.9 billion property is expected to be the first casino resort in the UAE when it opens in early 2027.

Wynn Al Marjan Island will prioritize luxury accommodations, upscale retail, and high-end dining and entertainment, with the gaming area representing a relatively small percentage of the overall property.

Positive Long-Term Outlook for UAE Casino Gaming

Despite Dubai’s delay, industry experts remain optimistic about the future of casino gaming in the UAE. Analysts project that UAE’s casino revenue could surpass that of Singapore, but achieving the same level of profitability as Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa will be challenging.

“Benchmarking against Singapore, UAE’s gaming revenue could reach $6.6 billion, but surpassing the profitability of Singapore and Macau may prove to be a tough task,” according to Bloomberg Intelligence.


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