Genting open to casino resort development in UAE, says chairman

The interest comes after the United Arab Emirates established a federal body last year to regulate the gaming industry.

(FMT) – Genting Group chairman Lim Kok Thay said the conglomerate is open to pursuing the development of integrated casino resorts in the United Arab Emirates, which is looking into legalising gambling.

An international tender for a casino-only development in the Middle East region is unlikely, Lim told shareholders at a Genting Singapore Ltd annual meeting on April 18.

Minutes of the meeting were published in a stock exchange filing on Friday.

“The company would be happy to work on an IR development in the Middle East, leveraging the company’s experience in non-gaming offerings,” the minutes cited Lim as saying in response to a question about expansion strategy into markets such as Thailand and the UAE.

In the minutes, “company” is defined as Genting Singapore.

Genting’s possible interest comes after the UAE established a federal body last year to regulate the gaming industry.

The introduction of casinos would be a step change for the UAE where Islamic, or shariah law, is the main basis for legislation. Gambling is illegal in the country, where offenders can be fined or sentenced to two years in prison, or both.

The emirates of Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah had emerged as frontrunners in introducing casinos ahead of their neighbour Dubai, after the glitzier city-state put immediate plans to allow gambling on hold, Bloomberg reported in November, citing people familiar with the matter.

Sites under consideration for Abu Dhabi included Yas Island – home to the Yas Marina Formula One Circuit and Ferrari World as well as the Warner Bros theme park – and a plot near the city’s port, the people said then.

In Ras Al Khaimah, Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts Ltd started work last year on a US$3.9 billion integrated resort that is due to open in 2027. While Wynn has said the project will include “gaming”, the government of Ras Al Khaimah did not clarify then what such gaming areas referred to.

The UAE’s casino market could surpass that of Singapore in terms of revenue, according to a May 14 report by Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Angela HanLee and Lea El-Hage.