Speculation is increasing the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is warming to the idea of allowing casino gaming. That could prompt Caesars Entertainment to evaluate related opportunities in Dubai, where it currently operates a non-gaming hotel.
Anthony Costa, regional president at Caesars Palace, told Reuters the company it will evaluate potential gaming opportunities in Dubai. The comments come just months after Wynn Resorts said it will build an integrated resort on Al-Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah — one of the smaller of the seven emirates.
That acceptance now that there is going to be the potential of gaming in the UAE, in whatever form it’s going to be, allows people like Caesar’s and MGM as well to look at that closely,” Costa told Reuters. “I think it’s wonderful.”
Caesars Palace opened in Dubai in 2018, but the venue currently doesn’t offer gaming. It also operates Caesars Bluewaters Dubai. In 2018, Caesars said it would license four of its brands — Caesars Palace, Flamingo, The Cromwell, and The LINQ — to real estate entities interested in using those brands around the world.
Not far from Caesars Palace Dubai, MGM Resorts International is building a hotel. But the giant of the Las Vegas Strip told Reuters gaming isn’t a part of its planning for the venue.
UAE Could Be Next Big Market
With the US market saturated and Macau not open to new concessionaires, large casino operators are scouring the globe for markets with “next big thing” potential.
While the UAE has long banned gambling, it’s believed that if the emirates soften that stance, the region could fit the bill as the next star in international casino gaming. Along those lines, analysts estimate Wynn can generate return on investment of at least 20% on its Al-Marjan Island project.
Financial return for an integrated resort in Dubai could be equally or more compelling, because that emirate is larger, glitzier and more heavily visited by international tourists and business people than Ras Al Khaimah.
Those are relevant traits to any would-be casino in Dubai because if gaming is legalized in UAE, it’s likely the Singapore model will be followed. Home to two integrated resorts, Singapore capitalizes on those venues as a means for driving tourism to the city-state while charging locals to enter the properties. Similar venues in UAE could go even further and be foreigners-only. But that won’t be a headwind to operators, because foreigners account for 90% of the population there.
Caesars Softening Stance on International Expansion
Costa’s comments regarding Caesars considering casino gaming in Dubai could be another sign the company is more open to international expansion than previously thought.
When the company known as Eldorado Resorts announced its bid to acquire “old Caesars” in June 2019, CEO Tom Reeg said at the time opportunities to venture into international markets would need to be “stupendous for us to be running in that direction.”
Last year, the company pulled out of an integrated resort project on Yeonjong Island in South Korea. At that time, Reeg wryly said the company sold its stake in the Korea project “for some barbecue pork.”
However, last September, Caesars joined a consortium looking to bring an integrated resort to Wakayama, Japan. Dubai could be even more compelling for the gaming company, because it has existing infrastructure there, meaning it can keep a lid on construction costs.
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