Genting Group Chairman Lim Kok Thay has revealed the company’s keen interest in developing an integrated casino resort (IR) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the nation explores the legalization of gambling.

This disclosure was made during the Genting Singapore annual meeting on April 18, with the minutes later published in a stock exchange filing on May 17.

Betting Big on the Middle East

During the meeting, Lim addressed shareholders’ queries about the company’s expansion strategies, particularly in markets like Thailand and the UAE. While an international tender for a casino-only development in the Middle East might be improbable, Genting would be delighted to work on an IR development in the region, utilizing its extensive experience in non-gaming offerings. “The company would be happy to work on an IR development in the Middle East, leveraging the company’s experience in non-gaming offerings,” Lim was quoted saying.

UAE’s Gamble on Legalization

The UAE has recently set up a federal body to regulate the gaming industry, signalling a potential shift from its current stance under Islamic or Shariah law, which strictly prohibits gambling. Offenders face hefty fines or imprisonment under the current laws. However, with the establishment of this regulatory body in 2023, the landscape seems poised for change.

Bloomberg reports that Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah are in charge of introducing casinos, with Dubai taking a backseat for now. Potential locations for these developments in Abu Dhabi include Yas Island, renowned for its Yas Marina Formula One Circuit and the Ferrari World and Warner Bros theme parks, and areas near the city’s port.

Wynn Resorts’ Head Start

In Ras Al Khaimah, Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts began constructing a $3.9 billion integrated resort in 2023, set to open in 2027. Wynn has indicated that the project will feature “gaming” components, although the specifics remain under wraps as the Ras Al Khaimah government has not detailed what this will entail.

According to a May 14 report by Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Angela HanLee and Lea El-Hage, the UAE’s casino market could outperform Singapore’s in terms of revenue. This projection adds to the growing excitement and speculation surrounding the UAE’s possible entry into the global casino market.

Genting’s potential entry into the UAE market could be a game-changer. Leveraging its vast experience in integrated resorts, Genting could tap into a new and lucrative market. As the UAE navigates the complexities of legalizing gambling, developments over the next few years could significantly reshape the region’s entertainment and tourism landscape.

What’s Next?

For now, all eyes are on the UAE as it considers this monumental shift. Genting’s interest, combined with Wynn Resorts’ ongoing project, highlights the region’s growing allure for major players in the gaming industry. As regulations evolve, the UAE might soon become a hotspot for high-stakes casino resorts, blending opulence with opportunity in the heart of the Middle East.

Stay tuned as this story unfolds, potentially marking a new era in the UAE’s tourism and entertainment sectors.

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