Dubai is seen as one of the prosperous modern cities in the world. An opulent jewel that seemingly sprang out of the hot desert sand, much like Las Vegas. Both cities overcame massive geographical and physical hurdles to become the most visited destinations on the planet, yet the two couldn’t be ideologically further apart.
Dubai is part of the UAE or United Arab Emirates and, despite being seen as one of the most advanced and moderate Arab countries within the middle east, and allowing some of the most prominent hotel and casino brands in the world to set up shop, still follows certain strict Muslim traditions and laws.
Issam Kazim, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing chief executive officer, announced in a recent statement that Dubai had no official plans to legalise gambling in the country. The announcement may have come as a surprise to some observers, especially when one considers that three of the biggest hotel and casino chains in the world, namely Bellagio, Caesars Entertainment Corp, and MGM Resorts International are all set to launch brand new billion-dollar resorts in Dubai.
Tradition versus Vegas
While the MGM, Caesars Palace and Bellagio are all known the world over for their casino and hotel facilities, in Dubai all three will be noted for a complete absence of the former.
According to Kazim, Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, is determined to keep certain Muslim traditions and values alive which includes not allowing any form of gambling on UAE soil. Kazim went on to reiterate that certain cultural practices and aspects were very sacred to the UAE nation, which includes betting or gambling for money, a practice forbidden in Islam.
Perhaps rather interestingly, even though traditional Islam forbids gambling for money, there always seem to be exceptions to the rule. Among the most notable exceptions, one can find casino gambling permitted in predominantly Muslim countries of Egypt, Tunisia, and further afield, in Malaysia.
What the future holds
So far Caesars Entertainment are planning on opening ‘several’ venues in Dubai which include a beach resort as well as two hotels at the Bluewaters Island development. According to Caesars president and CEO of Caesars Entertainment, Mark Frissora, the Bluewaters Island development is set to become the regions premier destination for entertainment, hospitality and dining, through their cooperation with Meeras.
Abdulla Al Habbai, chairman of the Meeras Group, however, reiterated the groups “dedicated to implementing the vision of our wise leadership and consolidating Dubai’s status as a global tourist destination in line with the Dubai Tourism Vision 2020.” In other words, it seems the current move by the biggest brand names in US casino resorts will go a long way in achieving Dubai’s goals. By 2020, the UAE, and specifically Dubai, hope to attract over 20 million visitors, even if it does not include the casino component for which they are all famed.