Amidst speculation and anticipation, MGM Resorts International’s CEO, Bill Hornbuckle, has announced the enterprise’s plans to establish a new casino in Dubai. MGM has allocated an expansive 150,000 square feet within their already-owned property in Dubai for this purpose.
Hornbuckle confirmed the venture during his recent attendance at the Global Gaming Expo held in Las Vegas. During his speech, he noted MGM’s partnership with the reputed Wasl Asset Management Group and justifiably expressed confidence in the selected Dubai location for the development of the new casino. “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,” Hornbuckle revealed during the event.
Pending approval from the United Arab Emirates government to commence casino operations, MGM Resorts International embarks on a mission to penetrate the potentially lucrative market. The company, however, isn’t alone in their pursuit. In 2021, Wynn Resorts divulged their plans for Wynn Al Marjan Island that could also feature a casino. Preparations have already begun for the resort, slated to open in 2027 on the man-made island of Ras Al Khaimah.
These events point towards the possibility of the UAE government opening doors to integrated casinos and resort hubs. Further affirming this is the impending establishment of the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), the country’s first gaming regulatory body. Interestingly, Jim Murren, former CEO of MGM, is set to take the helm as the chairman, potentially offering an advantageous position for MGM if casino gaming is sanctioned.
Shaping this trailblazing market, Hornbuckle expressed his enthusiasm about the plans, stating, “I’d love to be in Dubai with an operating product with a casino in it, but one step and one day at a time. We’re very progressive and excited by what could happen there.”
Since the UAE government lacks interest in owning casinos, various potential solutions have been suggested. According to Hornbuckle, the involvement of two parties owning equity in the gaming venue is a possibility, or an optional lease agreement could be signed.
While there is talk of a gaming decree potentially signed by the country’s leaders, no official announcement has been made.
Speculation is rife regarding the uncertain locations of the new casinos. Knight Frank research suggests that 59% of survey members presume Abu Dhabi to be a potential location for the new casino, with a similar portion (58%) suggesting Dubai. Additionally, 48% believe the casinos could mark their presence in the remaining five emirates.