Atif Nader
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MGM Eyes UAE: Awaiting Casino Green Light

Cover image for post MGM Eyes UAE: Awaiting Casino Green Light
MGM Eyes UAE: Awaiting Casino Green Light
MGM Eyes UAE: Awaiting Casino Green Light

MGM’s interest in the UAE comes at a pivotal time as the region shows signs of warming up to the idea of legalized casino gaming.

Hornbuckle discussed the potential in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, emphasizing the importance of regulatory approval from the leaders of each emirate.

The CEO highlighted an ambitious plan, noting that MGM’s existing non-gaming hotel development in Dubai is prepared to pivot towards gaming if the legal landscape evolves favorably.

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Bill Hornbuckle
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“And then we would hope either through an opportunity in Abu Dhabi, which is something we will understand and pursue, or in Dubai. We will go after one, realizing and recognizing that the ruler of each Emirate has to approve that. And so that is how that works,”

The creation of the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) in the UAE, spearheaded by former MGM CEO Jim Murren, is a clear indication of the region’s intent to establish a regulated gaming industry.

This development, coupled with MGM’s strategic positioning and local partnerships, places the company at the forefront of potential entrants into the UAE’s emerging casino market.

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Bill Hornbuckle
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“I think the UAE will start with lottery and go into digital gaming, and probably the actual first casino license will be issued in Abu Dhabi, followed potentially by what’s happening with Wynn in Ras Al Khaimah.”

Hornbuckle’s remarks underscore the company’s anticipation of rapid regulatory progress following Ramadan, with significant groundwork already laid for MGM to take immediate action once the green light is given.

Bill Hornbuckle has expressed confidence that the coming summer could be a pivotal moment for MGM’s expansion plans, indicating that the UAE may begin to open up to casino gaming following the expected legal and regulatory advancements post-Ramadan.

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Bill Hornbuckle
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“I think they will go quick in identifying a partner: months not years, like this coming summer. Ultimately we will go forward – assuming that the decree happens and the regulations come out – very quickly from there.”

MGM has already embarked on a significant venture in Dubai, slated to house three renowned hotel brands under the MGM Resorts umbrella.

Notably, MGM’s Dubai project allocates a big foot area for prospective gaming ventures, potentially marking the inception of Dubai’s first genuine casino.

Also, Macau’s initiative to create foreigner-only gaming zones in casinos to attract international gamblers has not been successful, according to MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle.

Instead of drawing in the global clientele they hoped to compete with destinations like Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, these exclusive areas were met with disinterest.

MGM has shifted its focus to a “chip-in-chip program” for better tracking and management of gaming chips, enhancing accuracy and financial processes.

The introduction of these zones, meant to offer a 5% levy exemption under new gaming laws from early 2023, was largely ignored by international visitors, especially those from Thailand, who disliked the segregation.

This feedback has led MGM and possibly other operators to reconsider their strategies, focusing on broader investments to make Macau an appealing destination beyond gambling.

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