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UAE sheikdom creates gaming regulator, Wynn resorts announces integrated resort plans


Wynn Resorts appears primed to launch a new integrated resort with the UAE emirate of Ras al Khaimah, according to announcements from both the Las Vegas casino operator and the Ras al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority’s (RAKTDA) new Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation.

The proposed resort would sit on the manmade Al Marjan Island, and consist of a 1,000-room luxury hotel with a spa, 10 restaurants and lounges, shopping venues, a convention facility, and a gaming area. The word “gambling is not used in any of the announcements so far even though it seems to be described fairly specifically in a later clarification from the developer. Al Marjan Island is about an hour away from the economic and cultural center of Dubai.

Gambling runs contrary to Islamic law and Islam is the codified law of the land among all of the United Arab Emirates, so it’s unclear just how it could be allowed. Caesars has been operating a resort for several years in Dubai and most observers expected that emirate to be the first to authorize gambling. Going to the beach in a bikini and drinking alcohol in public is allowed in the more liberal Dubai, but to date, Caesars has not been able to open any sort of ‘gaming’ floor at their resort.

Expected Opening 2026

Ras al-Khaimah developer, Marjan said, “The newly announced integrated resort is still in its early design phase and due for completion by 2026,” according to the Associated Press. “These are all the details that can be provided at this stage.”

Wynn Resorts’ CEO Craig Billings said in a press release: “The region offers tremendous potential for the hospitality and tourism industry, and we are excited about the prospect of developing an integrated resort in Ras Al Khaimah.

RAKTDA’s Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation said in its statement that it will follow, “...global best practices in the regulation of gaming that operate as part of integrated resorts across various jurisdictions worldwide.” The statement went on to add that RAKTDA would consider the “social, cultural, and environmental landscape of the Emirate and cover licensing, taxation, operational procedures, and consumer safeguards.”

The foremost priority of this new division is to create a robust framework that will ensure responsible gaming at all levels,” read the statement in a way that makes ‘gaming’ completely interchangeable with ‘gambling’.

Ras Al Khaimah is the northernmost Emirate of the seven sheikdoms that comprise the UAE and it has been trying for years to make its name more well known in the international tourist community. Beyond bikinis and booze, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi’s autocracy is best known for RAK ceramics. Adventurers from Egypt, India, Russia, and the United Kingdom also sojourn to the mountain ranges there bordering Oman that include Jebel Jais, the highest point in the UAE at more than a mile above sea level (1,934 meters / 6,345 feet).

Foreign Workers a Large Part of Population

The entire UAE has a population of some 9 million people with a great many of them being foreign workers and ex-pats. Many countries such as South Korea and formerly Vietnam have dozens of casinos but only allow foreigners and foreign visa holders to enter other than for work purposes.

Predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East that currently allow gambling facilities include Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, and Lebanon.

According to a report on ABCNews.com, analyst Joseph Greff of J.P. Morgan said if Wynn Resorts proceed into the UAE market, the investment would benefit directly from the population that includes foreign workers. The analyst added: “We look at this beach resort as a super-regional-more-than-just-gaming high-end resort with solid (return-on-investment) prospects.”

Source: UAE sheikhdom to allow gaming as Wynn Resorts plans project, Associated Press, January 25, 2022





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