Caesars Entertainment’s casino-less hotel venture in the United Arab Emirates, Caesars Palace Dubai, is set to close its doors. The move ends to its five-year management deal with the UAE’s Dubai Holdings, on behalf of which it managed the Dubai hospitality venue.
The decision is surprising, as the UAE recently established a national gaming regulator, and looks set to grant a casino license to fellow Las Vegas-based operator Wynn Resorts. The developments have sparked major interest in the potential for a casino gaming market in the oil-rich nation.
Caesars, however, will now depart the UAE by November. The Caesars Palace property will be replaced by another hotel called Banyan Tree Dubai.
A Shift in Dubai’s Hospitality Landscape
Caesars Entertainment may be leaving Dubai, but it comes at a time when several other U.S. casino giants are busy moving into the UAE.
Wynn Resorts is expected to be soon granted a license for an “integrated resort” complex in the Ras Al Khaima emirate, which will include casino gaming.
The Al-Marjan Resort is expected to complete in 2027, and it is aiming to have a bigger gaming floor than the flagship Wynn Las Vegas property.
Speculation is that the traditional federal-minded national government was blindsided by emirate Ras Al Khaima’s intention to license casino gaming with Wynn, leading to the establishment of the nationwide General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority.
What’s more, the regulator is set to be led by U.S. casino gaming experts, including former MGM Resorts chairman Jim Murren.
MGM Resorts itself is also currently constructing no less than three casino-less resort properties in Dubai, inspired by its Nevada casinos in Las Vegas.
America’s biggest gambling operator is constructing hospitality-only versions of its famous Las Vegas casino resorts — The Bellagio, MGM Grand, and Aria — in Dubai’s Jumeriah Beach area. The district is also home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
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Caesars’ entry into Dubai in 2018 took many by surprise, and its exit has elicited a similar reaction. The operator’s CEO, Tom Reeg, had previously expressed optimism about the resort venue’s potential for gaming in the future.
“If there’s an opportunity, you should expect that we would be active, and our brand and building is already open,” he said in 2022.
Despite that and the recent establishment of the GCGRA, Caesars has now chosen to retract from the UAE.
If the country does go on to become a potential multibillion dollar yearly gambling market, as some predict, with its high GDP per capita and increasing draw as an international tourism destination, Caesars may regret missing out.
The Las Vegas-based operator also entered the Macau market in the early 2000s, buying up a golf resort in the Chinese special administrative region. However, it fumbled the bag and failed to get a casino license before leaving (at a loss) in 2013.
Macau, the only part of China where gambling is legal, went on to become a far bigger player in the global gambling market than Las Vegas.
Despite a slower recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic than U.S. casinos, in 2023 the island once again became the biggest casino destination in the world by revenues.
Back to the UAE, and Dubai Holding has chosen to collaborate with French hospitality giant ACCOR for the former Caesar’s Palace Dubai’s next chapter.
The newly rebranded venue will open as Banyan Tree Dubai sometime in 2024. It will feature 179 rooms, including 30 suites and a unique four-bedroom villa equipped with a private entrance, pool, and beach. The resort will also boast a Banyan Tree spa and a “mini rainforest”, according to a recent press release.