Wynn Resorts' UAE Casino Plans Face Challenges

At the recent G2E Asia conference held in Macau, Seaport Research senior analyst Vitaly Umansky provided insights into the future of the gaming industry in the Middle East, particularly focusing on the Wynn Resorts casino project in Ras Al Khaimah. Umansky highlighted the potential challenges the project could face, especially if Dubai decides to introduce regulated gaming, which could significantly impact the market dynamics in the region.

A rendering of Wynn Resorts' planned integrated resort in Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE. (Source: Wynn Resorts)

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Despite the uncertainty surrounding regulatory approval from Dubai, where MGM Resorts International is building several hotels, the Wynn project is forging ahead with its plans. The property, expected to open its doors in early 2027, is set to feature a sprawling casino floor that spans approximately 5.6 million square feet. This development, Wynn Al Marjan Island, is poised to become one of the largest of its kind in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and could transform the country's gaming landscape.

Related: Wynn Resorts Starts Construction on First Casino in the UAE

Umansky's analysis suggests that while the potential for regulated gaming in Dubai presents a risk to the Wynn project in Ras Al Khaimah, it also underscores the growing interest in the gaming sector in the Middle East. The region, which has traditionally maintained conservative views on gambling, is showing signs of a shift as it explores economic diversification and tourism expansion.

The Wynn Resorts development in Ras Al Khaimah is part of a broader strategy to enhance the emirate's appeal as a luxury tourism destination. The casino, with its vast size and expected range of amenities, is designed to attract visitors from around the globe, offering a unique blend of entertainment, hospitality, and gaming experiences.

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Wynn Has Bright Future in the UAE

Despite the potential threat, there are reasons for Wynn Resorts to remain cautiously optimistic. While the UAE established a governing body in 2023 to potentially oversee legalized gambling, there haven't been any concrete decisions on individual emirates allowing casinos. It's entirely possible that Dubai might choose to focus on its existing strengths and forgo the controversy that often surrounds casino legalization.

Secondly, even if Dubai does legalize gambling, Wynn's Ras Al Khaimah project will have a head start. With a 2027 opening date, it could establish itself as the go-to destination for high-end gambling in the region before any potential Dubai competitor opens its doors.

Al Marjan Island is projected to be a major revenue generator, according to a recent analysis by CBRE Capital Advisors Inc. A Wednesday note from the firm estimates that the property could produce annual gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $1.38 billion when fully operational. This translates to potential net revenue of $1.8 billion annually.

The report highlights the unique position Wynn Al Marjan Island holds due to the limited gaming options currently available in the region. Analysts at CBRE believe this lack of competition will allow the resort to ramp up quickly, potentially reaching stabilization within three years of opening.


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