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Wynn Resorts wants to bring ‘gaming’ to the UAE

<i>Aleksandar Tomic/Alamy</i><br/>Wynn Resorts is planning to build a luxury hotel with 'gaming area' on Marjan Island in Ras al Khaimah.
Aleksandar Tomic/Alamy
Wynn Resorts is planning to build a luxury hotel with 'gaming area' on Marjan Island in Ras al Khaimah.

By Celine Alkhaldi, Eoin McSweeney and Hamzeh Noami, CNN

Casino operator Wynn Resorts has inked a deal to build a luxury resort in Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates.

“The planned destination will feature a luxury hotel with more than 1,000 rooms, world-class shopping, state-of-the-art meeting and convention facility, an exclusive spa, more than 10 restaurants and lounges, extensive entertainment choices, a gaming area, and other amenities,” Wynn said in a statement.

Gambling and gambling-related activity are banned in the Muslim Gulf state, and news of the deal sparked speculation on social media that the UAE government may be preparing to change the law.

A spokesperson for Wynn declined to comment further on the company’s plans for the resort’s “gaming area,” saying that such questions were best answered by local regulators.

In its statement, Wynn said the “multibillion-dollar” project was still in the “initial design and development phase” but would be applying for an integrated resort license from the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.

The authority told CNN that a new body — the Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation — would “regulate the gaming activities within integrated resorts in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.”

“Additionally, the regulations will cover marketing, advertising and financial transactions ensuring that these areas comply with the Department of Entertainment and Gaming Regulation,” the statement added.

The UAE Penal Code defines gambling as “games in which every party agrees to pay, in case of losing, to the other party, the winner, an amount of money or anything else agreed.”

UAE law prohibits the opening or managing of a venue for gambling, or organizing a game of chance in a public place. Managing a venue used for gambling can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years, and a fine of at least 100,000 Dirhams ($27,000).

In November 2020, the UAE introduced reforms to its penal laws as part of a bid to modernize the Gulf state and promote a progressive brand of Islam. The move was seen as an attempt by the sheikhdom to adopt a more liberal approach to social freedoms to attract expatriates and retain those already living there.

There are about 10 million people living in the UAE, and 8 million are foreigners. Expats make up the vast majority of the country’s workforce.

Caesars Entertainment, a global casino operator, agreed in 2018 to operate a non-gambling hotel in Dubai.

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