Jim Murren Appointed Chairman of New UAE Gaming Regulator

Posted on: September 3, 2023, 09:02h. 

Last updated on: September 4, 2023, 01:31h.

Former MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM) CEO Jim Murren has been appointed chairman of the board of the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA) — the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) newly formed gaming regulatory body.

Jim Murren UAE
Former MGM CEO Jim Murren, seen in a 2020 interview. He was appointed chairman of the board of the UAE’s General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA). (Image: Bloomberg)

Murren, who led the Mandalay Bay operator for a dozen years, will be joined by gaming attorney and lobbyist Kevin Mullally. Mullally, who has more than three decades of gaming industry regulatory experience, will serve as CEO of the GCGRA.

I am delighted at the appointment of Kevin Mullally. He brings unparalleled category experience and will be invaluable in creating a fit-for-purpose regulatory framework for the UAE,” said Murren in a statement published by the Emirates News Agency.

Murren departed the helm of MGM in March 2020 after being appointed by then-Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) to lead the state’s COVID-19 response taskforce. He was replaced by Bill Hornbuckle.

Timing of UAE Announcement Important

The timing of UAE unveiling the GCGRA is important, particularly to Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN). It is aiming to open its Wynn Al Marjan Island on Al-Marjan Island in early 2027. Construction on the property recently commenced.

Las Vegas-based Wynn is aiming to make the $3.9 billion integrated resort the first gaming venue in the UAE and the Arab world. On the company’s second-quarter earnings conference call last month, CEO Craig Billings hinted that the company could soon gain more regulatory clarity on its UAE project.

While Wynn holds a minority interest in the project and has already stated the Al-Marjan Island venue will not be casino-centric — an approach taken at its other venues — gaming is still viewed as essential to unlocking the potential of the resort. It’s also expected that the casino floor there will be larger than at Wynn Las Vegas by a wide margin.

“The GCGRA will create a socially responsible and well-regulated gaming environment, ensuring that all participants adhere to strict guidelines and comply with the highest standards, according to the statement. “It will coordinate regulatory activities, manage licensing nationally and facilitate unlocking the economic potential of commercial gaming responsibly.”

Item of Interest Regarding Murren Appointment

Something that’s potentially notable about Murren’s appointment as chairman of the GCGRA is the fact that MGM is developing a nongaming hotel in the UAE. So is Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ: CZR). Previously, MGM signaled that it wasn’t expecting  the UAE to approve gaming.

However, if that happens for Wynn, Caesars and MGM could be better-positioned than other competitors looking to enter the market, because they’ll have hotels there. MGM’s ties to Murren could be beneficial, but those are longer-ranging issues.

With entry into Macau and Singapore essentially impossible for at least a decade, the UAE is widely viewed as the world’s most desirable, untapped casino market — assuming gaming is approved. That attractiveness is heightened by the fact that because of vast oil wealth, UAE is one of the richest nations in the world on a per-capita basis. It’s also one of the most-visited countries, having attracted north of 15 million tourists last year.