Genting Chairman Lim Expresses Interest in UAE Casino

Add Genting Group to the list of global gaming giants that could pursue entry into the United Arab Emirates (UAE) if casino resorts are approved there.

Genting Chairman Lim Kok Thay. He said the company could be interested in a United Arab Emirates (UAE) gaming project. (Image: The Independent)

At the company’s annual meeting last month, Chairman Lim Kok Thay told Genting Singapore shareholders that UAE could figure into the operator’s integrated resort (IR) expansion plans, which could also include Thailand.

The Company would be happy to work on an IR development in the Middle East, leveraging the Company’s experience in non-gaming offerings,” according to minutes of the annual group meeting released last Friday by Genting.

Genting Singapore is a unit of Malaysia-based Genting Bhd and runs Resorts World Sentosa — one of two casino resorts in the city-state. Lim added that is not yet clear which arm of Genting would pursue a UAE license.

Lim Doesn’t Expect Tender Offers for UAE Casinos

According to meeting the minutes, Lim “noted that an international tender for a casino only development is unlikely.” That implies that if casino gaming is approved in UAE, operators would likely pursue plans comparable to those of Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN).

Widely expected to win the first UAE gaming permit if such licenses are approved, Wynn is partnering with Marjan LLC and RAK Hospitality Holding LLC on the Wynn Al Marjan Island integrated resort in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Las Vegas-based company’s financial contributions to that project are expected to be $900 million, making it a minority investor.

Like Wynn, Genting has strong competencies in non-gaming offerings, which could be appealing to regulators if UAE opens in earnest to casino gaming. Wynn’s UAE venue is expected to command 5.6 million square feet, but the casino would account for just 4% of that space. That jibes with expected regulatory demands that casinos not be the centerpieces of the integrated resorts in which they reside.

For now, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah appear to be the emirates most likely to approve casinos with Dubai — the posh tourist hub of UAE — delaying its embrace of Las Vegas-style gaming venues.

For UAE Casinos, Questions to Be Answered

For Genting, a UAE entry could make sense because by some estimates, the casino market there could eventually surpass the size of Singapore’s. Resorts World Sentosa, which operators in duopoly fashion with Las Vegas Sands’ Marina Bay Sands, is one of Genting’s cash cows.

For any operator considering UAE, there are questions to be answered. It’s been more than nine months since the formation of the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) — UAE’s first gaming regulatory body. However, there hasn’t been any clarity as to when gaming licenses could be awarded and what the related process will be.

Expectations are in place that could change before the end of this year and that the first casino permit will be granted to Wynn, potentially giving the operator a leg up on prospective competitors in UAE.

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