Casino giant Wynn inks pact with UAE to launch luxury resort with gaming area

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Nevada-based hotel and casino operator Wynn Resorts announced plans to build a luxury resort in Ras al-Khaimah, the United Arab Emirates, with a “gaming area”. The publicly listed casino and gaming operator announced a multibillion-dollar deal with the emirate which includes a plan to open a 1,000-room luxury resort with 10 restaurants and lounges, a spa, a convention facility, shopping venues, and a gaming area. The resort will be located on Al Marjan, a man-made island off the coast of Ras al-Khaimah, and is expected to complete in 2026. The resort will be developed with “significant foreign direct investment by Wynn Resorts,” a statement from Wynn said.

The announcement by Wynn came alongside the setting up of a new department called the Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation within the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). The scope of the new department will cover licensing, taxation, operational procedures, and consumer safeguards. In a statement, RAKTDA said that the foremost priority of this new division is to create a robust framework that will ensure responsible gaming at all levels.

Alcohol consumption is permitted in the UAE while gambling is banned in Islam and in all of the six GCC states. It is not clear if Wynn’s project plans include gambling operations in UAE. According to a report on Al Jazeera, UAE could move to permit gambling as part of wider legislative reforms aimed at maintaining its edge as a tourism and business hub amid rising regional competition. Casino and hotel operator Caesars already operates a non-gambling project – Bluewaters Island in UAE. On another man-made island in Dubai, named The Island, three luxury Las Vegas brand hotels by casino operator MGM Resorts are due for completion in 2022.

The UAE last year announced sweeping legal reforms aiming to boost its economy, maximize commercial opportunities and enhance social stability. In November, the country approved changes including 40 laws ranging from trade, online security, copyright, residency, narcotics, and other social issues. The amendments in commercial law permit foreign direct investment up to 100%. Earlier, foreign shareholding is permitted to a maximum of 49% of a company.