Earlier this year, Wynn Resorts – famous for their Las Vegas Strip – unveiled plans detailing their project in Dubai. The company anticipates spending $3.9 billion on integrating a development on the Al Marjan Island, in Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai.
This will include a 1,000-feet-tall hotel and 1,500 hotel suites, complete with 24 restaurants, 120,000 square feet of retail space and a casino that encompasses 4% of the overall footprint. If this were to come to fruition, it would be the first legalised gaming operation in the UAE, which is an ambitious feat, considering that the practice is currently illegal under the UAE Penal Code.
While the news felt unlikely at first, it has been backed up in recent months. In September, the UAE introduced a new regulatory body to oversee commercial gaming. While it was not immediately clear what exactly this body would be regulating, it is made up of casino and gambling experts, responsible for regulating gambling in the USA – where 37 states have laws for sports gambling, and 7 for online gambling.
According to Emirati state media, WAM, the GCGRA – General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority – will unlock the “economic potential of commercial gaming responsibly”, with industry experts such as Jim Murren and Kevin Mullally acting in key roles to ensure a robust body and framework. Both of these developments point towards a large picture: Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, becoming a gaming hub by 2030. But is this really going to happen?
The question of Dubai becoming a gaming hub is not exactly a naive one. There is undoubtedly an appetite for commercial gaming in the UAE, with thousands of Arabians across the Middle East playing online casinos and participating within the iGaming community. Online, it has become easy to find recommended blackjack casino sites in Arabic language, many of which draw in thousands of players every day, and rather than push against this, various Arab governments appear to be fuelling an iGaming revolution.
While the laws on gambling are still strict in the Middle East, there has been a definitive movement by the UAE – along with Saudi Arabia – to transition to a more liberal framework regarding gaming. In the last year, Saudi Arabia has invested over $8 billion in the gaming industry, including eSports, which will have its first World Cup held in Riyadh, in 2024. In line with the “Dubai Program for Gaming 2033”, the TMRW has also announced a major gaming investment, putting money into SuperGears Games to lay the foundation of Web3 and brand new gaming enterprises.
Dubai as a Gaming Hub
Over the last few years, there has been an urgency to change the way the Dubai economy works. With revenues from oil expected to decline by at least 2040, the UAE realises that it must diversify their economy, and with the global gaming market currently worth around $350 billion – expected to reach around $665 billion by 2030 – this is a prime industry to take advantage of. And it isn’t just about gaming. Dubai also wants to build its relevance and notoriety on the global stage. Because gaming attracts such a massive global audience, any country that succeeds as a “gaming hub” receives far more attention, which ultimately leads to more tourism and higher growth for the overall economy.
This is certainly doable. According to recent data, Dubai is on-course to grow its media and entertainment sector to 5% of GDP in the next two years – which is a rise of 2.4% in five years. It’s also the right location for a gaming hub. Put simply, Dubai has a hot climate, which makes it well-suited to indoor entertainment, and it already has a reputation for its futuristic innovations, which bodes well for innovative gaming developers looking for a base for their VR, AR, AI, and blockchain driven games.
Will It Happen?
Right now, it’s hard to say whether Dubai will indeed become the gaming hub it intends to be in just seven years. Saudi Arabia, for one, will prove strong competition. The US and China are also finding an enormous amount of success in the gaming industry, with both currently responsible for the two highest revenues in the gaming market. But if the Wynn developments pan out as they are expected to, there’s no reason to suggest why it couldn’t. This would be a visual – and spiritual – symbol that demonstrates Dubai’s commitment to a new future: as leading players in one of the biggest and most exciting industries in the world.