US-based MGM Resorts confirms its $2.5 billion project in Dubai will not feature casino

News Team 2 months ago
US-based MGM Resorts confirms its $2.5 billion project in Dubai will not feature casino

MGM Resorts, one of the world’s leading hospitality and entertainment companies, has announced that its upcoming $2.5 billion mega-resort in Dubai will not include a casino, despite the UAE’s recent establishment of a gaming regulatory authority. The project, dubbed ‘The Island’, is MGM’s first venture in the Middle East and will host 1,400 rooms across four iconic brands: MGM Grand, Aria, and Bellagio. The resort, which is being developed by Wasl Hospitality and Leisure, a subsidiary of Wasl Asset Management Group, is expected to be a landmark destination for leisure and business travellers, offering a range of attractions and amenities, such as a theatre, a beach club, a marina, a convention centre, a spa and a retail complex.

However, the resort will not cater to the gambling enthusiasts, as MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle confirmed that the company has no plans to operate a casino in Dubai, citing Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island as a more suitable location for a gaming resort in the UAE. “We do see a significant opportunity if gaming were to be legalized, first in UAE and ultimately in Dubai,” Hornbuckle said during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call.

UAE’s ambiguous stance on casinos

The decision to exclude a casino from the MGM resort in Dubai comes as a surprise to many, as the UAE had formed the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) in September last year, sparking speculation that the country was preparing to legalize gambling, which is currently prohibited under Islamic law.

The GCGRA, which is headed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the deputy prime minister and minister of presidential affairs, is responsible for regulating and licensing commercial gaming activities in the UAE, as well as ensuring compliance with the relevant laws and standards. However, the GCGRA has not issued any licences or permits for gaming operators or venues in the UAE, nor has it clarified the scope and criteria of its regulations, leaving the industry in a state of uncertainty and confusion.

Meanwhile, MGM Resorts is proceeding with its mega-resort project in Dubai, which has been under work since the third quarter of 2017. According to the UAE’s state-owned media WAM, the project was set to take four years to complete, but it has seen little progress with no updates yet. The project is part of MGM Resorts’ global expansion strategy, which also includes projects in Japan, Macau, and the US. The company reported a net loss of $448 million for the fourth quarter of 2023, compared to a net income of $2 billion for the same period in 2022, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its operations.

Hornbuckle shared these views at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas. He spoke about the company’s partnership with Wasl Asset Management Group. in Dubai This development, described as a “podium and pedestal,” could potentially house a casino. He stated, “We were there early. We have a project, now underway. 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. We think there will be three or four [casinos] in the Emirates.”

He also noted that MGM has set aside 150,000 square feet of space at the Dubai property that could be used for a casino, pending approval from UAE leadership. However, it was later confirmed that the $2.5 billion mega-resort in Dubai will not feature a casino.

The UAE has shown signs of warming to casino gaming, including the formation of its first gaming regulatory agency, the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA). Despite this, the final decision on whether casinos will be permitted in the UAE is yet to be made. Nevertheless it is evident that the landscape of the gaming industry in the UAE is on the cusp of significant change. The formation of the GCGRA signals a potential shift in the country’s stance.

Stop Press: the next SiGMA Eurasia Summit takes place in Dubai between 25 – 27 FebruaryThe next SiGMA Africa Summit takes place in Cape Town between 11-13 March !

The fourth edition of SiGMA Eurasia will once again be held at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City. Held between the 25 and 27 February 2024, the summit provides invaluable networking opportunities for industry professionals, gain exposure to the latest tech and innovations in the sector, meet key decision makers, and gain insight into new markets

SiGMA Africa event kicks off in Cape Town, South Africa on the 11 March. Building on the success of its inaugural edition in Nairobi, Kenya, in January 2023, SiGMA Group recognizes the need to foster collaboration and innovation within the industry.

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