After months of speculation, the CEO and President of MGM Resorts International has confirmed that while the company has drawn up an aggressive growth plan for the UAE, its $2.5 billion three-hotel project in Dubai will not feature a casino.

During the Q4 and FY 2023 earnings call for the US-based hospitality and entertainment company, William Hornbuckle shared more details about the upcoming project planned for Dubai while also revealing that Abu Dhabi may be better positioned for a gaming resort.

“… We spent some time on the ground there, specifically in Abu Dhabi, trying to understand the license in general for UAE, but ultimately, the opportunity in Abu Dhabi. We believe it would be on the Yas Island. That opportunity still exists,” Hornbuckle said on the call, adding: “To the extent there is a submission to be had, we may participate in that.”

He continued: “Obviously, we have Dubai. We have our project there, which is an amazing…. It’s going to be over a $2.5 billion project without a casino in it.”

While many have speculated that the mega-resort would be one of the first venues in the UAE to feature a casino following September’s announcement of a new regulatory authority to be established which will be responsible for commercial gaming activities and a national lottery system in the country, Hornbuckle did not rule out a future possibility to bring in gaming.

“… If and when both Abu Dhabi itself as the general license granter for all or any of the Emirates goes, and then ultimately, one by one, the Emirates say they would like it [a casino], we hope to be positioned either for Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but time to tell. And it may start with digital first, a lottery, potentially digital [sic],” he added.

First announced in 2017, The Island, a megaproject by Wasl Asset Management Group, located off the coast of Jumeirah, would feature three iconic Las Vegas hotels, with the MGM, the Bellagio, and the Aria bringing a 1,400-room mega-resort to Dubai.

A November 2023 report by MEED further revealed the Dubai-based developer had awarded an estimated AED4.4 billion ($1.2 billion) contract to the Beijing-based China State Construction Engineering Corporation to build The Island project.

While there’s been no official word on whether The Island will feature licensed gaming, Ras Al Khaimah has already announced that its upcoming 1,500-room Wynn Al Marjan Island Resort, set to open in 2027, will feature a casino.

(Reporting by Bindu Rai, editing by Seban Scaria)