UAE Could Become Next Gambling Destination

Hassan Khalid
July 2, 2024
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Growing Belief in Marjan Island’s Potential

Many believe Marjan Island in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) might become a major gambling area like Las Vegas or Macau. This is surprising because gambling is banned under Islamic law and is still illegal in the UAE. Currently, no casinos exist in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. However, casinos operate in Lebanon and Egypt.

Efforts and Developments in the UAE

Plans to build casinos in the UAE have gained a lot of attention recently. The potential economic benefits and new rules to regulate gambling drive this interest. Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi are leading these efforts. Abu Dhabi is looking at possible sites for casinos, with Yas Island being a top choice due to its existing entertainment facilities. Dubai, despite being a major tourist spot, is not planning to build casinos, focusing on its current attractions. Residents in Dubai will still be able to access UAE casinos online should they wish.

At least 20 developers are working on projects in various stages of design and construction on Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah. The small international airport in Ras Al Khaimah will expand with a new terminal to handle 2 million passengers a year by 2027. Luxury hotel capacity, already over 200,000 rooms, will grow in the coming years.

Regulatory Developments and Economic Impact

Last year, the UAE created the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) to oversee potential legalization and regulation of gambling activities. This new federal body, led by industry experts Jim Murren and Kevin Mullally, aims to create a well-regulated gaming environment with high standards and strict guidelines. The formation of GCGRA is a key step towards legalizing gambling through federal laws or changes to the criminal code.

Experts predict that the UAE could earn a lot of money from legalized gambling. Bloomberg Intelligence estimated that the country could make up to $6.6 billion each year, more than Singapore’s annual gaming revenue. CBRE analyst John DeCree believes that developing integrated resorts and Arabic casinos in the UAE is one of the best global gaming opportunities today.

Positive Outlook for Wynn Resorts

Wynn Resorts has already started building a $3.9 billion integrated resort on Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah. It is set to open in 2027. CBRE believes Wynn Al Marjan Island will generate strong returns and high property margins. The mix of non-gaming activities may surpass Macau and even Singapore. DeCree and his team are very positive about Wynn Resorts’ prospects. CBRE predicts that the Wynn property will generate gross gaming revenue of $1.38 billion, net revenue of $1.8 billion, and property earnings of $921 million. While many expect property margins to be around 30%, CBRE thinks that a friendly regulatory environment, low gaming tax rates, and little competition could help Wynn achieve margins as high as 50%.

In the future, companies like Las Vegas Sands, Caesars Entertainment, Genting Group, Hard Rock International, Galaxy Entertainment, Melco Resorts, and MGM Resorts International might become developers in the UAE if gaming is approved. Hotel chains like Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International, and Hyatt Hotels could also benefit from an increase in tourism.

Author Hassan Khalid

Hassan Khalid, a reviewer at casinoarabie.com, leads the effort to explore the world of Arab online casinos. With his long experience in the online gaming industry, Hassan brings a new vision to many operators seeking to establish themselves in the Arab world. Unlike most international content writers in the online gaming space, Hassan has a great understanding of the challenges and opportunities related to online casino gaming in Arabic-speaking countries. Therefore, he is responsible for the editorial vision of casinoarabie.com