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Las Vegas luxury brands pinning hopes on resorts in UAE

Updated October 20, 2022 - 8:39 am

Wynn Resorts Ltd., Caesars Entertainment Inc. and MGM Resorts International have taken their brands to the Middle East. And Wynn will have something in the United Arab Emirates that its Las Vegas-based counterparts won’t — casino gambling.

The three properties are miles apart and in different emirates, which are similar to states.

Caesars Palace Dubai, which is already open, is in Dubai, the most populous city in the UAE.

The site of MGM’s development, which will include an MGM Grand, a Bellagio-branded hotel and MGM Signature villas, is along the coastline of Dubai.

Wynn’s property is about 70 miles to the northeast of Dubai in the northernmost emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.

The seven emirates are governed independently which is why Wynn in Ras Al Khaimah will be allowed to offer casino gaming while Caesars and MGM properties will not.

Ras Al Khaimah

In January, the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority announced the formation of a new division focused on the regulation of integrated resorts, including hotel operations, convention space, entertainment, restaurants and lounges, spa, retail and gaming facilities.

Wynn CEO Craig Billings is excited about the prospects for the luxury property, which is expected to be completed in late 2026 or early 2027.

“The bar is high for us, but I can’t think of anybody better positioned to raise that bar than us,” Billings said in an interview with the Review-Journal.

He said the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority approached Wynn about developing a resort there and “about helping them fulfill their vision of becoming a tourist destination, and we’re eager to do that.”

The resort will be Wynn’s first beachfront property, to be located on man-made Al Marjan Island. It will feature more than 1,000 rooms, over 10 restaurants and lounges, a state-of-the-art meeting and convention center, spa, stores, multiple entertainment venues and a gaming area.

Wynn will be competing with other luxury brands with a total of 6,500 rooms. There are 2,500 already available.

In addition to providing traditional beachfront amenities, Wynn expects to tie into Ras Al Khaimah’s adventure amenities that include trips to massive sand dunes and mountaintop zip lines.

“It’s probably the most diverse geography in the UAE and when you’re in a leisure destination like this, you generally work very closely with the local tourism authority,” Billings said. “The tourism authority in Ras Al Khaimah is world class and you market the destination. That will be part of our strategy, to market the destination and market ourselves within that destination.”

While Wynn expects to develop carpeted convention facilities in the emirate as it has at Wynn Las Vegas, those facilities are expected to host social events as well. The wedding industry in Ras Al Khaimah is robust, Billings said, and the company anticipates doing big business with Indian party planners.

MGM teaming with Wasl

Far from the Wynn property is MGM’s project — a 2 million-square-foot resort on Jumeirah Beach that initially was announced in March 2017 with a planned four-year completion. The company has not commented on project delays, but confirmed Tuesday that development has begun. A completion date has not been scheduled.

MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle last commented publicly on the project in the company’s second quarter earnings call.

“In the UAE, we continue to make progress on bringing the MGM brand family to Dubai, where we have a management agreement for a nongaming integrated resort that has been developed in partnership with Wasl,” Hornbuckle told investors.

MGM Resorts International and Wasl Hospitality and Leisure, a subsidiary of Wasl Asset Management Group, are teaming on the project. MGM will advise on the project and manage it when completed.

When the project was first announced, Hornbuckle said the resort would have retail, pools and water features.

“It will have something called The Cavern, which is like a diving club that will be about 7,000-8,000 meters (23,000 to 26,250 feet) with about 15 or 16 different things down there,” Hornbuckle said. “It’s impressive. We’re actually making the pool a dive pool so you can snorkel.”

A water show similar to the featured attraction at Las Vegas’ Bellagio is planned. In addition to 1,000 hotel rooms and 10 villas with MGM- and Bellagio-branded properties, Hornbuckle said a new brand may be introduced, and MGM’s Skylofts product could be brought there.

Under plans described in a statement announcing the project, the development would include more than 500,000 square feet for a theater and a mix of restaurants from gourmet to casual, specialty retail shops, traditional and interactive museums, a beach club and “adventure zones” for adults and children.

The new project would occupy the longest stretch of waterfront ever developed in Dubai and would be near the iconic Burj Al Arab, a 1,053-foot five-star hotel that is shaped like a boat sail.

Hornbuckle said its entertainment tower “Dubai Sphere,” which will have a theater inside, wouldn’t be as tall as the Burj Al Arab but “very compelling.”

Caesars Palace Dubai

Representatives of Caesars did not respond to inquiries about how Caesars Palace Dubai is faring.

Caesars’ first nongaming hotels, Caesars Palace Dubai and Caesars Bluewaters Dubai, have 495 rooms combined, a fraction of the size of its Las Vegas megaresorts. Amenities include 12 restaurants and bars, indoor and outdoor pools, including five chilled pools, and convention space.

The resort fronts a 1,640-foot beach on the reclaimed island.

Like the company’s Las Vegas resorts, Caesars Palace Dubai sits in the shadow of a tall observation wheel.

Former Caesars President and CEO Mark Frissora said his group expected Bluewaters Island to “evolve into the region’s top hospitality, dining and entertainment destination.”

The three Las Vegas company-owned resorts are expected to market to high-end customers and tap into the Indian market.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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