From Las Vegas to the ‘Arabian Strip’, US hotel and casino giant Wynn is establishing a new resort within the emerging gambling hub of the UAE. Gemma Harris reports
Wynn Resorts is set to open a US$3.9 billion resort featuring a casino in one of the UAE’s seven emirates, Ras Al Khaimah, on the artificial Al Marjan Island.
Developed in collaboration with local partners Marjan LLC and RAK Hospitality Holding LLC, the Wynn Resort is scheduled to open its doors in 2027, with construction work already underway.
The multi-billion dollar resort will feature over 1,500 luxury-styled rooms, suites and villas, and 24 restaurants. The array of entertainment options and gaming areas is expected to be subject to a gross gaming revenue tax rate of between 10 per cent and 12 per cent.Poised to recreate Las Vegas in the Middle East, trademarks from Wynn include the “Arabian Strip” and the “Marjan Strip.” The group also registered the “Encore Marjan Island” trademark, highlighting the potential for a sister hotel reminiscent of Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas.
Wynn Resorts may also manage a portfolio of other hotel brands. “We and our partners are in active discussions around those adjacent parcels of land, and I expect additional hotels will act as a powerful feeder to Wynn Al Marjan Island,” says Craig Billings, CEO of Wynn Resorts.
In preparation for the opening, the UAE has established a new regulatory body, the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), to regulate its emerging commercial gaming industry.
As the first Gulf state to legalise casinos, this movement indicates the potential for the largely previously untapped Middle East gaming market.As stated in a UAE state publication, WAM, the GCGRA is to “create a socially responsible and well-regulated gaming environment” and “facilitate unlocking the potential of commercial gaming responsibly”.
To lead this new initiative, the authority has enlisted two seasoned veterans of the US gambling industry. Ex-MGM Chairman and CEO Jim Murren has been appointed to chair the board of directors, and General Counsel for Gaming Laboratories Kevin Mullally will serve as the CEO of the new regulatory body.
The establishment of the GCGRA has emerged after speculation that the UAE would legalise gambling. Surprising to some with casinos previously uncommon across the Middle East where Muslim majority-run countries restricts them along with other forms of gambling, but as tourism in the region develops, this initiative indicates a progressive shift toward diversifying its economic activities.
The development of such a dedicated gambling zone is expected to stimulate tourism further. According to estimates by Bloomberg Intelligence, the UAE has the potential to generate approximately US$6.6 billion in annual gaming revenue.
This initiative is already garnering international interest from hospitality leaders, offering a range of investment opportunities.
The visionary gaming landscape of the UAE has since attracted other prominent players in the luxury hospitality industry, with five-star establishments like Nobu, W Hotels, and Le Meridien set to join Al Marjan Island.
As these developments progress and the “Arabian Strip” takes shape, it represents an exciting new era in the Middle East’s luxury tourism journey.