Bill Hornbuckle, CEO of MGM Resorts International, has forecasted the possibility of up to four casinos operating in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a region traditionally known for its restrictions on casino gaming. Hornbuckle’s prediction was made during his recent appearance at the Las Vegas Global Gaming Expo (G2E).
While debriefing the Expo attendees, Hornbuckle touched upon his company’s ongoing project in Dubai, a collaboration with Wasl Asset Management Group. The venture will see the construction of a hotel that could potentially host a casino. “We have an MGM, a Bellagio, and an Aria on this island. Now we’re adding a podium and pedestal structure that could encompass a casino,” Hornbuckle described. He went on to suggest that there could be three to four casinos in the UAE.
In anticipation of a potential green light for casino gaming by the UAE leadership, MGM Resorts has allocated 150,000 square feet of space at the Dubai property that can be converted into a casino.
Meanwhile, last year, Wynn Resorts revealed plans for Wynn Al Marjan Island, with the expectation of the property supporting a casino, though there is no official confirmation. The construction started this year and is expected to open its doors by early 2027.
Ties between the UAE and casino gaming are beginning to strengthen as the country sets its sights on becoming the leading integrated resort destination in the Arab world. This idea was solidified with the recent establishment of the country’s first gaming regulatory agency, the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), helmed by former MGM CEO, Jim Murren.
Hornbuckle has expressed his eagerness to introduce casino gaming to Dubai. “We’re progressively excited about the possibilities that can unfold in the region,” he opined at the Expo. However, he emphasized the need for patience, stating, “One step and one day at a time.”
Whilst the UAE government doesn’t appear to be interested in taking direct ownership of a casino, Hornbuckle mentioned that MGM is ready for various scenarios, including equity stakes in a gaming venue or lease contracts.
There have been rumors of a gaming decree being formalized, but nothing official has been announced. A recent survey implied that the favored locations for casino resorts are Abu Dhabi and Dubai, chosen by 59% and 58% of respondents, respectively, with a smaller 48% believing that resorts could also be located in the other five emirates.
Interestingly, Wynn Al Marjan Island is being built on a manmade island in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.