Murren Assumes Role as Chairman of Recently Established UAE Gaming Regulator


Last updated on: September 3, 2023, 09:02h.

Jim Murren, the former CEO of MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM), has been selected as the chairman of the newly established General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Murren UAE
Jim Murren, former MGM CEO, appointed chairman of UAE’s General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA). Image: Bloomberg

Murren, who led MGM Resorts International for twelve years, will be joined by Kevin Mullally, a gaming attorney and lobbyist with over three decades of regulatory experience in the industry. Mullally will serve as the GCGRA’s chief executive officer.

“I am delighted at the appointment of Kevin Mullally. He brings unparalleled category experience and will be invaluable in creating a fit-for-purpose regulatory framework for the UAE,” said Murren.

Murren left his position as CEO of MGM in March 2020 to lead Nevada’s COVID-19 response taskforce. He was succeeded by Bill Hornbuckle.

Timing of UAE Announcement Crucial

The timing of the UAE’s introduction of the GCGRA is significant, particularly for Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN), as it plans to open the Wynn Al Marjan Island in early 2027. Construction on the property has recently begun.

Las Vegas-based Wynn aims to establish the first gaming venue in the UAE and the Arab world. On the company’s second-quarter earnings call, CEO Craig Billings hinted at the possibility of gaining greater regulatory clarity for the UAE project.

While Wynn’s Al Marjan Island venue will not be casino-centric, gaming is still considered essential to unlock the full potential of the resort. It is also expected that the casino floor there will be significantly larger than that of Wynn Las Vegas.

“The GCGRA will create a socially responsible and well-regulated gaming environment, ensuring that all participants adhere to strict guidelines and comply with the highest standards,” according to the statement. “It will coordinate regulatory activities, manage licensing nationally, and facilitate responsible commercial gaming.”

Relevance of Murren’s Appointment

Murren’s appointment as chairman of the GCGRA is potentially noteworthy due to MGM’s development of a non-gaming hotel in the UAE, as well as Caesars Entertainment’s (NASDAQ: CZR) similar project. Previously, MGM expressed uncertainty regarding the approval of gaming in the UAE.

If gaming is approved, Wynn, Caesars, and MGM could be in a better position than other competitors in the market because they already have hotels in the UAE. MGM’s association with Murren might prove advantageous, although these are long-term considerations.

With entry into Macau and Singapore unlikely for at least a decade, the UAE is widely recognized as the world’s most desirable untapped casino market. Its attractiveness is enhanced by its vast oil wealth and high tourist numbers, with over 15 million visitors last year.

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