Al Marjan Island, Ras Al Khaimah, Emirados Árabes Unidos.

Wynn Resorts hotel and casino chief executive Craig Scott Billings confirmed that the group will open a casino at the luxury resort being built in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a first for the Gulf Arab region. The casino, first announced in January, will be located on an island off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah and is expected to open in 2026.

According to local news, Ras Al Khaimah is currently writing gambling laws for casinos, based on Singapore and US regulations, as Wynn Marjan plans to bring his gambling operations to the region. It has also been confirmed that the property will cost $2 billion, reports Hotelier Middle East. The casino will be about 18,500 square meters in area, thus making it one of the top 10 largest casinos in the world, and nearly twice the size of Wynn’s Las Vegas property.

“We’ll be operating on our own, which makes it quite exciting, it’s getting a little bigger than Wynn Las Vegas,” Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings said during the third quarter earnings call this month. “When you think of a market like that where for some period of time you’re going to be the sole operator, you certainly don’t want to underbuild the casino, but you want to keep that feeling of energy.”

According to the call, Wynn is putting a high focus on the project, with Billings noting that the project has “a very high return opportunity” for the company. “That’s really the focus of our design and development efforts right now.”

At the beginning of the year, the company announced a new connection with Dubai, RAK and the United Arab Emirates. He said, “The UAE is already a substantial destination not just for the region, but for Europe, for Brits, for Germans, for people everywhere. So this is a significant opportunity for customer acquisition and a truly material extension of our brand”.

“When we open this property, 95% of the world’s population will be within an eight hour flight of a Wynn Resorts property,” added the executive.

Craig Billings, CEO of Wynn Resorts

The emirate’s tourism development authority has already created a division specifically to regulate integrated resorts, with a new Entertainment and Gaming Regulation Department also created to “consider the social, cultural and environmental landscape of the emirate and cover licensing, taxation, operational procedures and consumer safeguards,” according to the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA).

The Ras Al Khaimah is one of the smallest and least known of the seven emirates of the UAE. In Dubai’s regional business hub, Caesars Palace currently has a non-casino resort and MGM Resorts International is building a resort.

The casino would mark a watershed moment for the Gulf, a region that has traditionally imposed stricter Islamic rules than other parts of the Middle East. The prospect of a new casino is set against the backdrop of intense competition in the region, with the UAE competing with Saudi Arabia’s rapid opening to become a strong tourist destination.