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The United Arab Emirates Set for First Casino

Penny March 23, 2023

Plans are progressing on a new casino in the Gulf. The UAE looks to be getting ready for the state’s first gambling house. Wynn Resorts will be the operator and they are moving forward quickly by naming their preferred construction contractor. They have also laid out a number of potential names for their latest establishment.

Dubai casinos in UAE

The announcement was made on March 22 and has generated excitement in the Middle East country. This latest venture will join illustrious names in the region, including the very first casino in Lebanon’s recently reopened Casino du Liban. Needless to say, this is a monumental step in an area that has recently made big moves to step up to the world stage.

Earlier in 2023, Wynn was reported to have trademarked a couple of potential casino resort names. They were the ‘Arabian Strip’ and ‘Marjan Strip’. They are clearly looking to invoke images of the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. Since then, the gears of production and construction have begun to move quickly. In an announcement made in partnership with Marjan Island, the construction contractor ALEC Engineering and Contracting was picked out to take the project forward. With the groundwork laid in the form of preferred bidders, the next steps are clear. As this is the first casino in the state, there are legal ramifications to such an announcement.

Developing an Unprecedented Legal Framework

Across the West, casinos are something of a ubiquitous part of life. However, in a region with such a strong religious connection, that’s perhaps not the case. That’s true of the UAE, and in establishing a casino in the country, new hurdles must be cleared. As such, authorities are now looking into the process of developing a legal framework to allow for and regulate casinos. The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is tasked with navigating the bill that will account for the new Wynn property. While these might be unprecedented times for the UAE, those in charge are looking to those with established laws on the topic of casinos.

It’s reported that the higher-ups in the emirate are looking to both Singapore and the USA for the shape of their new framework. That means looking at the Casino Control Act of Singapore and the States’ federal oversight of individual states – a situation not unlike the UAE’s constituent emirates. The Casino Control Act is particularly interesting. A key part of that regulation enforces the need for casinos to be a part of a wider resort. This suggests that the new framework will encourage companies like Wynn to offer extra entertainment and not solely casino gaming. It also offers a good comparison when it comes to dealing with contention from religious figures. Singapore is home to strong communities of Christians and Muslims and, as such, the Act has faced opposition. The way this has been navigated could provide a route for any nation foreseeing similar issues.

2026 Date Set for the Region’s Latest Expansion

So, while the background details of legal frameworks and preferred contractors are being ironed out and announced, the factor of when the new resort can be expected has become something of a peripheral concern. Currently, it’s believed that it will open in 2026 at the earliest. The casino will likely be over 18,000 sqm, which will prove a time-consuming construction project. Until then, the region will be looking at the successes and failures of its existing casinos as a blueprint of what to expect come three years from now. It’s no good planning a luxurious new resort if the area isn’t exactly fertile ground for it. And, while casino gaming is something of a contentious issue in the Middle East, there are some successful examples.

For example, the aforementioned Casino du Liban has weathered years of turmoil and closure. However it actually provides a good comparison in terms of size. In fact, the Lebanon casino is almost twice the size of the newest Wynn venture at 35,000 sqm. Given its longevity with such a phenomenal size, those in charge of the new Marjan Island resort will take heart from its ability to weather the storm and maintain its expansive area. Even then, both are dwarfed by Egypt’s Sheraton Cairo Hotel and Casino, which stands at 70,000 sqm. That is to say, there are plenty of examples of successful mega casinos in the region. Enough to give Wynn and the UAE plenty of encouragement.

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