MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle recently shared his outlook for the UAE’s casino industry. Speaking at the Global Gaming Conference in Las Vegas, he expressed his expectation that as many as four UAE casinos could secure licenses, including one at the MGM in Dubai.
“Yes. We were there early. We have a project, now underway,” Hornbuckle said at the conference. “This island has an MGM, a Bellagio, and an Aria on it. We’re now building a podium and pedestal that could house a casino.”
Hornbuckle shared the news in response to a query regarding the forthcoming Wynn Al Marjan Island, which has secured a casino but but is currently awaiting a license. The $3.9 billion Wynn development will be in Ras Al Khaimah, overseen by a new emirate tourism authority branch, the Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation.
According to Hornbuckle, on top of the anticipated four casinos, it is at the discretion of each ruler to determine their preferences for location and decisions. Currently, MGM hopes for gaming legalization in the UAE and anticipates property upgrades in Dubai while awaiting decisions from Abu Dhabi and the government.
The UAE has introduced the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) at the federal level, headed by Jim Murren. The GCGRA oversees and sets rigorous standards for the commercial gaming sector.
During the September 2023 Bank of America Gaming and Lodging Conference, Hornbuckle mentioned the formation of the GCGRA and his interest in the Dubai casino industry.
The CEO also offered to invest or lease the entire casino business in Dubai. Although a gaming decree is rumored to exist, it has yet to be disclosed. The MGM in Dubai project, introduced in 2017, includes a large complex with hotels, a theater, restaurants, museums and more.
On the other hand, Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings believed a gaming license for his Marjan resort in Ras Al Khaimah was imminent.
“We have everything we need to operate gaming in Al Marjan,” Billings said. “And I think there’s confusion here because there’s a lack of understanding regarding individual emirates versus the UAE as a whole.”
While he said that discussions about federal-level legalization encompassing all emirates are ongoing, he anticipates Wynn will secure its Ras Al Khaimah license shortly.
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