November 3, 2023 3 min read


Dubai Delays Casino Resort Approvals in Potential Setback for MGM

Although this recent development may be a setback for operators seeking entry into the UAE, other emirates are now emerging as contenders in the race to be the first to host casino resorts

Dubai, the most ostentatious of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has postponed the approval of casino resorts, potentially dealing a temporary blow to MGM Resorts International’s regional ambitions. In collaboration with Wasl Hospitality and Leisure, MGM opened a branded hotel in Dubai in 2021 and has been closely monitoring the possibility of establishing a gaming regulatory framework.

Dubai Remains Attractive to Investors

MGM Resorts International has long expressed an interest in Dubai, hoping that UAE’s number one tourist destination would finalize its plans to legalize casino resorts. The company is collaborating with Wasl Asset Management Group to create a high-profile venue with a flexible space of 150,000 square feet, awaiting the nod from the UAE leadership to introduce gaming into the mix.

While the UAE has traditionally prohibited gambling under Sharia law, recent indications suggest a paradigm shift. The UAE announced the formation of its first gaming regulatory agency, the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority, signaling its changing attitudes. However, a new Bloomberg report stated that Dubai had opted to delay the approval of casino gaming.

Such news presents a temporary setback for MGM, which has invested significantly in its planned venue. However, industry insiders agree that regulated gambling will come sooner rather than later, justifying MGM’s decision to proceed with its project. The planned venue’s flexibility means the hospitality giant can swiftly adapt to an eventual green light and launch its gambling content.

Other Emirates Have Launched Preparations

While Dubai’s casino future remains uncertain, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah have gained prominence as strong contenders in their own right. Abu Dhabi is exploring the idea of opening a casino, with potential sites including Yas Island, known for its attractions like the Ferrari World, Warner Bros. theme parks, and the Yas Marina Formula One Circuit

Ras Al Khaimah, the capital city of its eponymous emirate, boasts popular tourist attractions and aims to bolster its international appeal. Wynn Resorts has already started developing its Wynn Al Marjan Island project, which can become the first UAE property with casino gaming. Scheduled for an early 2027 opening, it may feature a casino larger than Wynn Las Vegas.

While the UAE may not easily surpass the profitability of destinations like Singapore and Macau, it retains a substantial gaming revenue potential. Launching regulated gambling should lead to significant long-term growth and attract significant foreign investments. High-profile casino resorts would also bolster the UAE’s tourism sector, attracting more diverse visitors.

Deyan is an experienced writer, analyst, and seeker of forbidden lore. He has approximate knowledge about many things, which he is always willing to apply when researching and preparing his articles. With a degree in Copy-editing and Proofreading, Deyan is able to ensure that his work writing for GamblingNews is always up to scratch.

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