Craig Billings, CEO of Wynn Resorts, has suggested that the issuance of the first casino license in the UAE may be imminent, with the company’s planned casino resort in the Northern Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah set to become the only establishment of its kind in the country.
“We have everything we need to operate gaming in Al Marjan. So 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,” Billings said during Wynn’s second-quarter earnings call.
Billings further told investors that the company has a very substantial growth opportunity in the UAE and called it “the most exciting gaming market in decades.” The planned $3.9 billion casino resort, described by analysts as “one of the most exciting growth prospects in the gaming industry globally,” will be called Wynn Al Marjan Island and is expected to open in early 2027.
The resort will be located on 115 acres on Al Marjan Island, made up of four islands, in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. A leading tourism destination in UAE, Al Marjan Island is 15 minutes from the Ras Al Khaimah International Airport and 45 minutes from the Dubai International Airport.
Comprising four islands, Al Marjan Island features over 7.8 kilometers of beaches and 23 kilometers of waterfront in addition to world-class hotels and residential developments. It spans an area of 2.7 million sqm of land extending into the Arabian Gulf.
Wynn will have a 40% stake in the multi-billion project, which will also be the company’s first beachfront property. The firm is working with local partners Marjan LLC and RAK Hospitality Holding LLC on the development.
“This is the most exciting new market opening in decades, and we will bring our A-game to this development. Our 40% equity ownership and management license fees will drive a very healthy ROI for Wynn Resorts shareholders,” Billings said, noting there is a legalization process that needs to take place in order for gaming to occur in that property.
Once finalized, the 1,500-unit resort, featuring rooms, suites and villas, will be the first UAE property with a casino. As for its design, the architecture will mark a departure from Wynn’s traditional bronze-colored style used at Wynn Las Vegas, Encore, Wynn Macau and Encore Boston Harbor; and will include a 1,000-foot tower. The casino space will take up only 4% of the property’s total space.
Earlier in the year, Billings heralded the connectivity and diversity of Dubai, RAK and the emirates. “The UAE is already a substantial destination for not only the region but for Europe, for Brits, for Germans, for folks from all over the place,” he said at the time. “When we open that property, 95% of the world’s population will be within an eight-hour flight of a Wynn Resorts property.”
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.