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FDI - Will Casinos And Luxury Tourism Gamble Pay Off In The Middle East?

Historically known for ceramics, Ras Al Khaimah is now targeting gambling and luxury tourism, Seth O Farrell, FDI Intelligence

The Las Vegas-based hotel and casino company Wynn Resorts is set to open a resort in RAK — the Wynn Al Marjan Island Ras Al Khaimah. This is expected to be the biggest FDI project in the emirate to date.

Sitting on an artificial island — which took nine years to build, starting in 2004 — the resort has a lot to live up to. At a cost of $3.9bn — roughly a third of RAK’s gross domestic product — it is expected to open in 2027.

“With this project, we really had a blank canvas from which to work. A man-made island is inherently malleable, allowing us to craft not only the property itself, but the entire landscape around the property,” said Craig Billings, CEO of Wynn, in an investor presentation in April. As gambling is illegal in the UAE, multiple sources tell fDi that the hotel’s offshore location is likely to make this circle easier to square.

Wynn, which has major resorts in Las Vegas and Macau, has partnered with developer Marjan Properties and holding company RAK Hospitality Holdings to create this resort. Clad in bronze glass, it will have roughly 1500 hotel rooms.

In 2022, the RAK Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) established the Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation to cover licensing, taxation, operational procedures and consumer safeguards.

“The regulatory structure will address the entire gaming enterprise within integrated resorts, requiring compliance with all applicable laws and regulations (including financial crime laws) from operators, suppliers and employees,” the authority said in a statement.

When broken down by location, 60% of HNW individuals from Singapore, China, and Hong Kong said the casino made it a more interesting location to buy real estate, while investors from Saudi Arabia signaled they would avoid buying property in RAK on account of the casino.


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