Wynn Resorts Ltd. said it expects to soon obtain a gaming license in Ras Al Khaimah, a northern part of the United Arab Emirates near Dubai, raising hopes for what could be the Gulf region’s first casino resort.
(Bloomberg) — Wynn Resorts Ltd. said it expects to soon obtain a gaming license in Ras Al Khaimah, a northern part of the United Arab Emirates near Dubai, raising hopes for what could be the Gulf region’s first casino resort.
Construction of the company’s $3.9 billion gaming resort is underway at the Al Marjan island of Ras Al Khaimah, Chief Executive Officer Craig Billings said on an earnings call Thursday. While there’s still no clarity about whether the UAE will legalize gambling for the entire country, Billings said the company isn’t worried.
“There should be no concern that there is a broader legalization process that needs to occur in order for gaming to occur in that property,” he said. “While there may be conversation in other emirates about legalization or legalization at the federal level, thereby covering all emirates, I expect that we will have our license for Ras Al Khaimah actually imminently.”
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Calling the UAE “the most exciting new gaming market in decades,” Billings said the project — where Wynn holds 40% of equity ownership and will also receive income from management license fees — will drive a healthy return on investment for shareholders.
Wynn reported $524 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the three months through June, compared with $480 million for the same quarter in 2019. Its performance was buoyed by a strong recovery in Macau, which generated $246 million in profit for the quarter and returned to 72% of the pre-Covid levels.
Bloomberg News previously reported that there have been early discussions in the UAE about legalizing gambling and some operators have held informal talks with authorities. An international law firm is drafting a policy that could be used at the federal level, but it’s not clear who commissioned the work.
Uncertainties remain as senior government officials have said there are no imminent plans to allow gambling in the country, and a representative for the government of Dubai said its proposed introduction was a federal matter.
In an earlier interview, Raki Phillips, chief executive officer of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, declined to comment on whether the emirate is allowing casino gambling. The authority last year set up a unit to regulate so-called “integrated resorts,” which will include gaming facilities.
If gambling is legalized by the UAE, it could pull in as much as $6.6 billion of gaming revenue annually, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Angela Hanlee. It could eventually surpass Singapore, home to the renowned Marina Bay Sands resort, she said.
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