Atif Nader
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Anticipating Casino Licensing in UAE, MGM CEO Initiates Construction in Dubai

Cover image for post Anticipating Casino Licensing in UAE, MGM CEO Initiates Construction in Dubai
Anticipating Casino Licensing in UAE, MGM CEO Initiates Construction in Dubai
Anticipating Casino Licensing in UAE, MGM CEO Initiates Construction in Dubai

MGM Resorts’ CEO Bill Hornbuckle has expressed optimism about the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorizing up to 4 casino licenses, with aspirations for MGM to be among the selected in the competitive landscape, particularly against contenders in Marjan Island, Ras Al Khaimah.

At the Global Gaming Conference in Las Vegas, Hornbuckle conveyed his expectations for the UAE, particularly focusing on a prospective casino in MGM’s Dubai project.

He highlighted the ongoing construction of a structure in Dubai, ideally suited for a future casino, amidst discussions on the Wynn Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah, which, despite plans for a casino, lacks an official license.

The ambitious $3.9 billion Wynn project is under the supervision of Ras Al Khaimah’s newly formed Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation.

Bill Hornbuckle
Expert Quote

We are actively involved in the region, with ongoing projects including MGM, Bellagio, and Aria on the Dubai island. We’re building facilities that could potentially accommodate a casino. Our expectation is for 3 or 4 casinos across the Emirates, subject to the decisions of local rulers.

MGM’s commitment to establishing a casino in Dubai is evident, but Hornbuckle emphasizes a gradual and progressive approach. The announcement of the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) in the UAE, chaired by former MGM Resorts chairman and CEO Jim Murren, signals a significant step towards formalizing the commercial gaming industry in the country, with strict regulatory guidelines anticipated.

Addressing the formation of the GCGRA and his ambitions for a casino in Dubai at the Bank of America Gaming and Lodging Conference, Hornbuckle revealed MGM’s willingness to invest in or fully lease a casino in Dubai, though the exact nature of Dubai’s involvement in the casino business remains uncertain.

The MGM Dubai project, announced in 2017, is an extensive development featuring an MGM Hotel, residences, and a Bellagio-branded hotel, along with various amenities such as a large theater, dining options, museums, and entertainment facilities for all ages.

A survey by Knight Frank revealed that a significant percentage of high-net-worth individuals anticipate the opening of casinos in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and other Emirates within the next few years.

Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings has also indicated an imminent gaming license for their Marjan Island resort.

Hornbuckle has expressed his expectation for gaming legalization in the UAE, highlighting MGM’s readiness to adapt their Dubai property for potential gaming activities. The decision, however, rests with Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s national government.

Meanwhile, Caesars’ recent exit from Dubai, where it operated the non-gaming Caesars Palace since 2018, coincided closely with the establishment of the GCGRA. The Caesars will soon be rebranded as Banyan Tree Dubai, following a new partnership with Ennismore and Dubai Holding.


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