In Al Marjan Island

Wynn to introduce gambling into United Arab Emirates with multibillion-dollar IR; first MENA region, beach project

Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven sheikhdoms in UAE.
2022-01-25
Reading time 3:22 min

Wynn Resorts, Marjan, and RAK Hospitality Holding are partnering for a multibillion-dollar integrated resort development on the man-made Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, the companies announced on Tuesday.

Scheduled to open in 2026, the multipurpose integrated resort marks “the largest-of-its-kind” foreign direct investment in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven sheikhdoms in UAE. The Al Marjan Island, a leading tourism destination in UAE  is 15 minutes from the Ras Al Khaimah International Airport and 45 minutes from the Dubai International Airport.

Comprising four islands, Al Marjan Island features over 7.8 kilometers of beaches and 23 kilometers of waterfront in addition to world-class hotels and residential developments. It spans an area of 2.7 million sqm of reclaimed land extending into the Arabian Gulf.

The new integrated resort, to be set on one of the exclusive islands, which covers an area “of almost 250,000 sqm,” will offer “a pristine setting with spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf” as well as sandy beaches and a marina, the Las Vegas-based casino operator explained in a press release Tuesday. It is set to be the first beach resort developed by Wynn Resorts globally.

The project is also set to be Wynn’s first resort in the MENA region. For the development, the Vegas-based giant is teaming up with Marjan, master-developer of freehold property in Ras Al Khaimah, and UAE-based integrated hospitality and leisure company RAK Hospitality Holding.

"Al Marjan Island is a pristine setting and an ideal greenfield location for us to create the one-of-a-kind guest experiences for which Wynn Resorts is renowned,” said Craig Billings, newly appointed CEO of Wynn Resorts. “The region offers tremendous potential for the hospitality and tourism industry, and we are excited about the prospect of developing an integrated resort in Ras Al Khaimah."

The current scope of the planned destination includes a 1,000+ room luxury hotel, world-class shopping at a high-end mall, a state-of-the-art meeting and convention facility, an exclusive spa, more than 10 restaurants and lounges, a wide array of entertainment choices, a gaming area, and other amenities, according to a press statement.

The announcement by Ras al-Khaimah comes after months of rumors about gambling coming to the UAE, home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Associated Press reports. Islam, the religion of the Arabian Peninsula, prohibits gambling. While the other emirates haven't announced similar deals, casino operator Caesars operates a massive resort in Dubai, Caesars Palace at Bluewaters Dubai.

The integrated resort will be developed “with significant foreign direct investment” by Wynn Resorts, the companies said in the announcement. It is set to be the largest project of its kind in the Emirate’s growing hospitality sector, and is expected to create substantial value to the local economy, accelerating tourism, creating jobs and energizing the growth of related sectors.

The new resort is currently “in the initial stages” of design and development, and will be applying for an integrated resort license from Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. Set to be completed in 2026, the entire project will be developed “to the highest standards of sustainability best practices.”

"The integrated development, featuring a world-class hotel, entertainment and gaming amenities, will add to the Emirate's destination strategy to attract tourists from across the world,” said Eng. Abdulla Al Abdooli, CEO of Marjan. “We are partnering with Wynn Resorts, one of the world's most renowned integrated resort companies, which has a strong track record of developing luxury destinations with exceptional accommodation, dining, entertainment concepts and gaming facilities.”

According to the Marjan CEO, by leveraging Wynn’s expertise, the new development will “raise the benchmark” in luxury hospitality in the region. Al Abdooli further says the integrated resort highlights the fast-growing recognition of Ras Al Khaimah as a leading investment destination, and will boost sectors of its industry.

Tourism chiefs in the region have set out the formation of a new division to regulate integrated resorts in an effort to ensure “responsible gaming at all levels” in the emirate, The National News reports. The Wynn-backed project would be among these projects.

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism and Development Authority has said the “department of entertainment and gaming regulation” will oversee “hotel operations, convention space, entertainment, restaurants and lounges, spa, retail and gaming facilities” in these resorts.

The department will consider “the social, cultural, and environmental landscape” of the emirate and “cover licensing, taxation, operational procedures and consumer safeguards.” The foremost priority of the new division is to create “a robust framework” to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, including financial crime laws.

Wynn Resorts' announcement comes after Monday's report by New York Post alleging that the company is looking to sell its online business, Wynn Interactive -operator of the WynnBet app-, at “deep discount” as the sports betting niche faces losses from stiff taxes and costly promotions to lure customers. The Vegas-based giant allegedly slashed the asking price to $500 million from a $3 billion valuation less than a year ago.

 

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