Other Emirates Forge Ahead as Dubai Postpones Casino Plans

Dubai Delays Casino Approval, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah Lead the Race

In a setback for MGM Resorts International, Dubai has decided to delay its plans to approve casino resorts, potentially impacting the company’s ambitions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah are emerging as strong contenders to be the first among the seven emirates to have casino resorts. MGM, in partnership with Wasl Hospitality and Leisure, opened a branded hotel in Dubai in 2021 and has been closely monitoring the situation regarding gaming regulations in the UAE.

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

According to unidentified sources, Dubai has postponed approval of casino gaming, but it may consider hosting a poker series. Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah are now the frontrunners among the emirates, with Abu Dhabi exploring the possibility of opening a casino on Yas Island, known for its attractions like Ferrari World and the Yas Marina Formula One Circuit.

MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle had expressed optimism about the UAE’s gaming regulatory framework earlier this year and stated that MGM’s Dubai property has space for potential casinos. However, with Dubai out of the picture, operators are turning their attention to Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, which offer their own unique attractions and tourism potential.

Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah Emerge as Leading Contenders

While Dubai’s casino plans have been put on hold, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah are now considered strong contenders to have casino resorts in the UAE.

Abu Dhabi is considering opening a casino on Yas Island, home to popular attractions like Ferrari World and Warner Bros. theme parks. Other potential casino sites include a plot near the city’s port.

Ras Al Khaimah, the capital city of its namesake emirate, is the sixth-largest city in the UAE and offers a range of tourist attractions, including an aquarium, Burj Khalifa, and Flamingo Beach.

Wynn Resorts, which recently broke ground on its Wynn Al Marjan Island, does not seem to be affected by Dubai’s decision to delay casinos. The $3.9 billion property, located in Ras Al Khaimah, is expected to be the first casino resort in the UAE and will prioritize luxury accommodations, high-end retail, and dining options.

Positive Outlook for UAE Casino Industry

Although Dubai is temporarily out of the casino race, industry experts remain optimistic about the long-term potential of casino gaming in the UAE.

Long-term projections suggest that UAE’s gaming revenue could exceed that of Singapore, but it may be challenging to surpass the profitability of Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa in the city-state.

“Benchmarking against Singapore, UAE’s gaming revenue could reach $6.6 billion, and the gambling per tourist in UAE may fall below that in Singapore and Macau,” according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

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