October 16, 2023 3 min read


MGM’s Hornbuckle Expresses Optimism for UAE’s Emergence as Casino Hub

Hornbuckle announced that MGM Resorts, in collaboration with Wasl Asset Management Group, is actively engaged in a project in Dubai that might include a casino

In a speech at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle expressed his optimism about the United Arab Emirates (UAE) becoming a hub for casino resorts. 

MGM’s Dubai Casino Project Awaits UAE Approval

Hornbuckle, during his address at G2E, stated that MGM Resorts is actively working on a project in Dubai, in partnership with Wasl Asset Management Group, which could potentially house a casino. He mentioned that the development, which includes MGM, Bellagio, and Aria, is being designed with a flexible space of 150,000 square feet, awaiting the nod from the UAE leadership to introduce gaming into the mix.

This revelation comes amid the UAE’s recent announcement about the formation of its first gaming regulatory agency, the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), chaired by former MGM CEO Jim Murren. While the UAE has traditionally prohibited gambling under Sharia law, recent indications suggest a paradigm shift. 

JPMorgan analysts also recently suggested that the UAE could approve a gambling framework in 2023. The newly-established regulatory body is believed to be accelerating its efforts.

Hornbuckle expressed cautious optimism, stating that they would love to have a presence in Dubai with a functioning product featuring a casino, but emphasized the need to take things one step at a time. 

MGM and Wynn Prepare for Billion-Dollar Market

The potential market value of the UAE’s gaming industry has piqued the interest of major players. Research analysts have estimated that the UAE’s gaming market could be worth up to $6.6 billion annually in casino revenue, rivaling established markets like Singapore and Macau. MGM Resorts, alongside competitors like Wynn Resorts, is gearing up for a market that could surpass even Singapore, home to two major casinos, including the renowned Marina Bay Sands.

While Dubai seems to be at the forefront of these developments, other emirates are also eyeing the gaming industry. A recent survey conducted by Knight Frank revealed that 59% of respondents believe Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, will eventually have at least one gaming venue, as reported by Skift. Additionally, 58% shared the same sentiment about Dubai, and 48% anticipated integrated resorts in other emirates.

The potential influx of casinos is reshaping the UAE’s tourism landscape. The challenge for other emirates lies in matching Dubai’s infrastructure, including the bustling Dubai International Airport, which serviced more than 66 million passengers in 2022. Hornbuckle remains optimistic about the future, highlighting MGM’s longstanding relationship with Dubai and the company’s readiness to adapt to various scenarios, including equity investments or outright leasing of gaming venues.


Silvia has dabbled in all sorts of writing – from content writing for social media to movie scripts. She has a Bachelor's in Screenwriting and experience in marketing and producing documentary films. With her background as a customer support agent within the gambling industry, she brings valuable insight to the Gambling News writers’ team.

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