There is no move to legalise gambling in Dubai, despite the imminent arrival of three of the world’s most famous hotel casino brands, according to the emirate’s most senior tourism official.
The MGM Grand, the Bellagio, and as of last week Caesars Palace, are all heading for Dubai, with the latter set to open this year. They are the second and fourth largest casino companies in the world by 2017 revenues.
None of the hotels will features casinos, unlike their counterparts in Las Vegas.
Asked if there was any appetite for casinos, which are considered haram, or forbidden in Islam, Issam Kazim, chief executive of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism), told Gulf News that Dubai was interested in preserving its Islamic culture.
No [there is not a desire for casinos] … We need to bear in mind that there are cultural things that are a priority to us.”
– Issam Kazim | Chief executive of Dubai Tourism
“No [there is not a desire for casinos] … We need to bear in mind that there are cultural things that are a priority to us,” Kazim said.
Despite gambling being classed as one of Islam’s greater sins, several Muslim countries permit casinos, including Egypt, Tunisia, and Malaysia.
“I believe that the idea of Caesars Palace is to bring the theme that revolves around that, with the historical Roman elements, more than anything else,” he said, adding, “It’s about creating that sort of a destination and experience, more than about the casinos.”
In a wide-ranging interview with the tourism chief, who is responsible for executing the government’s now-famous strategy of attracting 20 million tourists to Dubai by 2020, Kazim made multiple references to the city’s attempts to “diversify” its approach to tourism.
The head of Dubai Tourism, a government authority, said that the push towards mid-scale hotels, reflected in the recent rise of Emaar’s Rove brand, and Jumeirah’s Zabeel House brand, had been successful in attracting a different demographic to the five-star luxury resorts, while denying that overpriced tickets were the reason behind the poor performance of the city’s theme parks.
“It’s not the pricing. It takes time to become an integral part of the tourism offering. The newer theme parks are world class. Eventually, they will become as well-known as the Wild Wadi water park and other attractions like it,” Kazim said.
On the issue of how visas contribute to visitor levels, the senior official said that he would like to see India granted visa-on-arrival status.
“India for sure. For sure. That would be the easiest one for me to look at. Also, tie it in with transit passengers that are travelling with Emirates Airlines. Know which ones the visa will be a barrier for, because they’re right on your doorstep,” Kazim said.
He added that as part of the authority’s strategy, Dubai Tourism looks “at the top 10 or top 20 source markets, and we have regular updates with government stakeholders so they know the potential certain countries have” for visa-on-arrival status.
Source: Gulf News