Atif Nader
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Dubai Officials Stall Casino Developments While Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah Forge Ahead

Cover image for post Dubai Officials Stall Casino Developments While Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah Forge Ahead
Dubai Officials Stall Casino Developments While Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah Forge Ahead
Dubai Officials Stall Casino Developments While Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah Forge Ahead

While Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah are making headway in the race to open the first casinos in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai has sidelined such plans despite earlier discussions.

After the UAE established a legal framework for gambling in September, Abu Dhabi is now considering locations for a casino, including Yas Island and an area near the city’s port.

Meanwhile, Ras Al Khaimah is set to welcome a $3.9 billion resort by Wynn Resorts Ltd., expected to launch in 2027.

In contrast, Dubai has opted to focus on its thriving tourism sector rather than prioritize gambling, although officials are contemplating launching a poker series in the city.

The introduction of casinos marks a significant shift in the UAE, where Shariah law predominantly influences legislation, and gambling is traditionally prohibited.

The current proposal under consideration would potentially allow each emirate a single casino license, a strategy aimed at controlling growth while tapping into the casino market.

Industry experts suggest that the UAE’s casino market might outperform Singapore’s in revenue generation, yet the tax structure remains undefined. Wynn Resorts anticipates receiving its gaming license for Ras Al Khaimah imminently, and the decision to issue licenses in other emirates rests with their respective rulers.

Despite the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, industry leaders remain optimistic about the prospects of casinos in the UAE. Bill Hornbuckle of MGM Resorts International is hopeful about the potential for casinos, including one in a project MGM is developing in Dubai.

Even without a casino, Dubai is expected to benefit from the casino traffic in neighboring emirates, with industry forecasts predicting up to $6.6 billion in annual gaming revenue for the UAE, potentially surpassing Singapore.

The recent shift in Dubai’s casino landscape was underscored by the Accor hotel group’s announcement that a Banyan Tree resort would take over the Caesars Palace site in a development by Dubai Holding LLC, following the UAE’s establishment of a gaming and lottery regulator.

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