Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi on MGM Radar for Casino

MGM Resorts International, which wants to open the first casino in the United Arab Emirates, is looking at two possible locations. CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle (l.) is aiming at Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi on MGM Radar for Casino

MGM Resorts is interested in either Dubai or Abu Dhabi for a casino gaming license if the United Arab Emirates (UAE) legalizes gambling, CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle told investors, TopGoal reported March 18.

MGM is a partner in a three-hotel development in Dubai. But if the UAE should issue a decree legalizing gambling, Abu Dhabi might also be a possibility for a casino, Hornbuckle said when he was speaking at the J.P. Morgan Gaming, Lodging, Restaurant & Leisure Management Access Forum on March 15.

The development in Dubai will host an MGM, Bellagio and Aria hotel, all owned by MGM. However Hornbuckle said that it all depends on which of the emirates would be willing to host a casino development. The Dubai development has 150,000 square feet available for gaming, should it be legalized.

Per TopGoal, Hornbuckle said, “I think the UAE will start with lottery and go into digital gaming, and probably the actual first [casino] license will be issued in Abu Dhabi, followed potentially by what’s happening with Wynn in Ras Al Khaimah.”

He continued, “Then we would hope either through an opportunity in Abu Dhabi or in Dubai, we will go after one – recognizing that the ruler, the leader in each emirate has to approve it. That is how that works.”

He anticipates knowing more in “months, not years,” he said. The UAE recently created the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) and named former MGM CEO Jim Murren to chair it. Murren has a remit to build a regulatory framework for a national lottery and commercial gaming. According to Hornbuckle, the GCGRA has “several dozen people moving and acting as if they are going forward” with the potential for “considerable progress post-Ramadan.”

Hornbuckle speculated that the UAE might identify a partner by this summer. He declared, “Ultimately we will go forward – assuming that the decree happens and the regulations come out – very quickly from there.”

The UAE is a federation of seven emirates. Each emirate has the right to approve or reject gambling for the emirate he rules.