The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is emerging as a new frontier in global gaming, with projections suggesting it could generate an impressive $8.5 billion (€7.9 billion) in revenue, rivaling major gaming hubs like Las Vegas and Singapore. This forecast comes from the latest report by CBRE Capital Advisors, positioning the UAE as a significant player on the global gaming stage.

CBRE’s report identifies the UAE as an exceptionally compelling opportunity for global gaming operators. “We believe the UAE represents one of the most compelling opportunities in global gaming,” said John DeCree, Head of Institutional Investor Research, and Colin Mansfield, Head of Credit Research at CBRE. Their optimism is grounded in several key factors:

  • Robust Tourism Industry: The UAE is already a global tourism hotspot, attracting millions of visitors each year.
  • High Propensity for Luxury and Consumer Spending: The region’s wealth and penchant for luxury make it an ideal market for high-end gaming and entertainment.
  • Business-Friendly Operating Environment: The UAE’s regulatory and economic policies are designed to attract and facilitate business investments.
  • Strong Transportation and Lodging Infrastructure: The country boasts world-class airports, hotels, and transportation networks, ensuring seamless travel and accommodation experiences.
  • Virtually No Gaming Competition in the Region: Unlike other markets, the UAE has minimal regional competition, providing a unique opportunity for growth.

One of the standout aspects of the UAE’s potential as a gaming hub is its progressive stance on investment and tourism. The CBRE report underscores the UAE’s commitment to creating an “operator-friendly environment.” Unlike regions like New York and Japan, where regulatory processes have faced numerous delays, the UAE promises a more efficient and supportive regulatory landscape.

“It could be the Las Vegas of the Middle East,” DeCree remarked during a recent webinar. He pointed out that, similar to Las Vegas, where only a fraction of the Strip’s revenue comes from gaming, the UAE is set to become a comprehensive entertainment destination. “Las Vegas is more akin to a non-gaming destination, even with a significant gaming component,” he added. “But from the perspective of a true IR (Integrated Resort) experience, the UAE is well on its way to achieving that.”

The UAE is making strategic investments to enhance its tourism infrastructure, further solidifying its position as a premier destination. Significant investments are being made in expanding airport capacities to accommodate the increasing influx of tourists.

Colin Mansfield highlighted the lack of regional competition as an exciting prospect for investors. “Incrementally more exciting is the lack of regional competition,” he said. Additionally, he emphasized the UAE’s focus on developing tourism infrastructure for future generations, ensuring long-term growth and sustainability.

CBRE’s insights are based on their visit to the UAE in May, which included a tour of Wynn’s integrated beachfront resort on Ras Al Khaimah’s Marjan Island, scheduled to open in 2027. DeCree identified Abu Dhabi, with Yas Island, and Dubai, with The Island project at Jumeirah Beach, as likely candidates for future integrated resorts.

The report suggests that regulated gaming is imminent in the UAE, drawing parallels to previous relaxations of activities such as alcohol consumption by non-Muslims. Significant changes to the criminal and penal codes are expected soon, paving the way for a comprehensive regulatory framework conducive to gaming operations. DeCree predicts an “operator-friendly” regulatory environment, with the potential for one integrated resort per emirate. Initially, the focus would be on national lottery regulations and operator licensure, followed by the establishment of a full-fledged framework for integrated resorts.

CBRE estimates that three integrated resorts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Ras Al Khaimah could collectively generate around $6 billion (€5.57 billion) in gaming revenue. With a population of 9.7 million, primarily expatriates, and a thriving tourism industry attracting approximately 25 million annual visitors, the UAE presents a lucrative investment opportunity.

CBRE models predict robust returns and high property margins for Wynn Al Marjan Island, driven by strong demand and favorable regulatory conditions. The report suggests that Wynn’s management contract and 40 percent share of project economics could yield significant annual free cash flow by 2030.

The UAE is on the brink of becoming the “Las Vegas of the Middle East,” offering unparalleled opportunities for tourism, gaming, and investment. With its strategic location, progressive regulatory environment, and substantial investments in infrastructure, the UAE is poised to transform into a global gaming and entertainment powerhouse.

For travel enthusiasts, business travelers, and real estate investors, the UAE represents a unique and exciting opportunity. As the nation continues to evolve and expand its offerings, now is the perfect time to explore the potential of this burgeoning market.

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