UAE exploring gambling legalization

Genting confirms willingness to explore integrated casino resort project in UAE

Reading time 1:09 min

Genting Group Chairman Lim Kok Thay admitted the conglomerate's openness to developing an integrated casino resort (IR) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is currently exploring the legalization of gambling. 

Speaking at a Genting Singapore annual meeting on April 18, Lim told shareholders that an international tender for a casino-only development in the Middle East is unlikely. The minutes of the meeting were published in a stock exchange filing on May 17.

"The company would be happy to work on an IR development in the Middle East, leveraging the company’s experience in non-gaming offerings," the minutes quoted Lim as saying in response to a question about expansion strategies into markets such as Thailand and the UAE.

Genting's interest follows the UAE's establishment of a federal body in 2023 to regulate the gaming industry. Legalizing casinos would mark a significant shift for the UAE, where Islamic, or Shariah law, currently prohibits gambling, with offenders facing fines or imprisonment.

Bloomberg reported in November that the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah are leading the push to introduce casinos, ahead of Dubai, which has put its gambling plans on hold. Potential sites in Abu Dhabi include Yas Island, known for its Yas Marina Formula One Circuit and Ferrari World and Warner Bros theme parks, as well as a location near the city's port.

In Ras Al Khaimah, Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts commenced construction in 2023 on a $3.9 billion integrated resort expected to open in 2027. Wynn has stated the project will include "gaming," although the Ras Al Khaimah government has not specified what this will entail.

A May 14 report by Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Angela HanLee and Lea El-Hage suggests that the UAE's casino market could surpass Singapore's in terms of revenue.

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