Hotel and casino operator Wynn Resorts has said it will build a luxury resort in Ras al-Khaimah, the United Arab Emirates, with a “gaming area”.
On Tuesday, the Nevada-based casino giant announced a multibillion-dollar deal with the emirate that will see it open a 1,000-room luxury hotel with 10 restaurants and lounges, a spa, a convention facility, shopping venues and a gaming area.
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Wynn did not specify if gaming included gambling.
The announcement came in tandem with a statement from the Ras al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) introducing a new division, called the Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation, in a sign that entertainment rules might be loosened.
The division will regulate “integrated resorts” that include hotel operations, entertainment spaces, restaurants, spas, retail shops, convention areas and “gaming”, said the statement.
Integrated resorts typically refer to hotels with casinos and other entertainment facilities. In a statement on state media, RAKTDA said the top priority for the new body would be a regulatory framework ensuring “the responsible practice of recreational gaming at all levels”.
Ras al-Khaimah’s government communications office, RAKTDA, RAK Hospitality Holding and Wynn Resorts have not commented on whether gambling would be allowed in the emirate.
But diplomats said the UAE could move to permit it as part of wider legislative reforms aimed at maintaining its edge as a tourism and business hub amid rising regional competition.
Dubai, traditionally the most liberal emirate in the UAE, in April denied rumours it was granting gambling licences.
Casino and hotel operator Caesars in 2018 opened a resort on Dubai’s Bluewaters Island – its first non-gambling project.
The Wynn resort, announced by Ras al-Khaimah authorities and Wynn, is set for completion in 2026. It will be located on Al Marjan, a man-made island off the coast of Ras al-Khaimah.
On another man-made outcrop of land in Dubai, named The Island, three luxury Las Vegas brand hotels from casino operator MGM Resorts are being built, due for completion in 2022.
While alcohol consumption has been allowed in the UAE, there has been no place for gambling, which is banned in Islam and in all of the six GCC states.
Last year, the UAE announced what it called the most sweeping legal reform in the Gulf state’s history. Vital changes included decriminalising premarital sexual relations and alcohol consumption.
Other recent changes by the UAE include introducing longer-term visas as a way to attract and retain talent and encourage more businesses to set up shop.