On a recent third-quarter earnings call, Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings confirmed that the company is planning to open a casino inside of its resort currently under construction in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which would represent the first casino to open in what has traditionally been a strictly non-gaming region.
The Gulf Arab region, which includes the UAE, has previously opposed gaming due to strict Islamic tradition.
However, as the competition for tourism business continues to increase now that nearby Saudi Arabia is beginning to open its doors as well, the addition of casino gaming may be seen as a way for the oil-dependent region to diversify its revenues.
Back in January, Wynn and the Ras Al Khaimah emirate, which is where the casino-resort is being built, announced that the property had been licensed, but did not specify any further details. Many have since speculated as to whether or not this could mark the beginning of further gaming expansion amongst the UAE, including to Dubai.
As for Wynn’s resort, Billings said he expects to be operational by 2026. The property is being built on a man-made island near the coast of Ras Al Khaimah, which is one of the smaller and less-frequented emirates.
The CEO said that the prospect of “operating on our own” for at least some period of time is “quite exciting.” He said that by comparison, the upcoming casino is expected to be “somewhat larger than Wynn Las Vegas.”
“When you think about a market like that where you, for some period of time, will be the only operator, you certainly don’t want to under build the casino, but you want to maintain that sense of energy,” Billings said.