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Will There Ever Be Casinos In Dubai?

Many people are shocked to find that Dubai has no casinos, but it should come as no surprise. The city and surrounding area have traditionally adhered to stricter Islamic rules than some other parts of the Middle East. But there is also reason to believe that might change in the future.

US giants are already in place

The city already boasts a Caesars Palace, which opened its doors in 2019; and a luxury resort built by Las Vegas casino giant MGM. This leads people to believe that there are casinos in the city, but neither resort currently offers gaming. Yet, both companies know the financial rewards that could be reaped from offering casino services in one of the world's most visited cities. So, they are primed and ready to react should the situation change.

Green light for Emirates gaming

Another factor that could drive change is the action of one of the nearby Emirates. In January, the region of Ras Al Khaimah announced plans to regulate gaming ahead of the construction of a resort by Las Vegas firm Wynn Resorts in 2026 as outlined in this recent article. The gaming haven will be located on a man-made island. Ras Al Khaimah briefly hosted the Gulf's first casino back in the 1970s as noted in the book, United Arab Emirates 1975/76-2018 by Anthony Axon and Susan Hewitt. This could prompt Dubai to follow suit as its tourism leaders continue their quest to become the world's most visited city. Elsewhere in the Middle East, there are already casinos in Lebanon and Egypt.

Global tourism hub

Dubai is all about big business and mega-tourism and casinos fit into this model perfectly. The gambling industry is huge as demonstrated in this article exploring the biggest betting billionaires. In the past, cultural hurdles have ruled out the option in Dubai, but now a precedent has been set that could open the door to regulated gaming for tourists. Much of Dubai's tourism has been driven by visitors from neighbouring countries such as Oman, as well as those from India. These visitors are less interested in gaming but as the number of visitors from Europe and the USA continues to increase, the demand for casino entertainment will also rise.

According to a report from Dubai tourism, the city received 7.12 million international visitors in the first half of 2022. That's a 183% growth compared to 2021 but down on the record of 8.36 million tourists received in the same period of 2019. But it is an impressive number given the global challenges and macroeconomic factors that have affected the economy and tourism trade. Of those 7.12 million, 22% come from Western Europe compared to 34% from the local region. The city also recorded the highest hotel occupancy rates in the world.

So, while Dubai's senior tourism official Issam Kazim states: “As far as I'm concerned, there is no gaming around the corner for us.” That stance could change soon. If they are serious about becoming the most visited city on the planet, it will need to open to more markets and revise its current rules.  This could mean that the UAE would permit gaming across the region but leave it up to individual Emirates how they regulate it.

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