Saudi Arabia to Build Its Own Version Of Vegas
Saudi Arabia does not seem to be the country that comes to mind when we think of Las Vegas style entertainment. However, it has been announced that a Las Vegas- sized entertainment hub is being built in the middle of the Saudi Arabian landscape. The complex, which is being built in the capital city of Riyadh, is scheduled to open to the public in the year 2030. Standing in 2017, it appears that the authorities are going ahead with the plans and there seems to be little insight on what it will involve.
Breaking with Saudi Convention
The first stage of the construction on the complex is scheduled to be completed in the year 2022. Saudi Arabia, which is known for its conservative religious laws, seems like the last place such a project would be implemented. Yet, that is the very reality that the country is currently being faced with. Work on the project is set to begin early next year.
The entertainment city seems to be a part of a wider strategic plan that is expected to develop a total of 334 square miles of land around the capital. The project has been dubbed Vision 2030. The development is supposed to be roughly one- fifth the size of the city of Riyadh, which is approximately the same size as Las Vegas.
Once completed, the complex will include a large range of attractions including entertainment and sporting amenities, a Six Flags amusement park as well as a safari park.
The project was commissioned last year by the Deputy Crown Prince of the Country, Mohammad Bin Salman. The motivation behind the project is to help Saudi Arabia explore alternate sources of income to support their economy in the future. Currently the country’s economy is solely dependent on their income from fossil fuels. The would like to move away for that and diversify their earning potential.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is blessed with many assets. Their geographic, cultural, social, and economic position offers them some unique advantages. The authorities have a special vision for the country, which is to be built around three central themes. These include a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation.
The authorities have highlighted some commitments and goals along the lines of each of these themes. They expect all future decisions for the nation to be aligned with this Vision. Ground preparation for the first step of the program is already underway. They have also already launched a number of executive programs at the Council of Economic and Development Affairs.
Religious Laws Could Restrict the Prospects
One of the major issues that the project needs to overcome is the strict religious laws that are enforced in the country. For example, one of the main issues that could cause a lot of problems for the project would come from the current need to segregate the men from the women within Saudi society. So far, theme parks across the country have mainly been aimed at children. A cross- gender entertainment city, like the one that is being proposed could face a few hurdles with the more orthodox members of the community.
There are many other constraints of the Islamic society to be considered as well. The entertainment complex will have to cater for the fact that it needs to adhere to these strict social guidelines.
Cinemas and alcohol are banned in Saudi Arabia. This would limit the potential of the complex to say the least.
The country also has strict laws surrounding wardrobe. Women are required to wear loose fitting robes and to cover their hair at all times when in public. This will undoubtedly limit the appeal for many tourists.
Catering to the Country’s Special Needs
Saudi Arabia is the 40th most populated country in the world. The whole nation has a population of 33 million people, with six million of them living in the capital city alone. This means, the complex stands the chance to be a huge success without the need for any outside input. The country seems to have a large enough market before even having to open up to the possibility of getting foreign tourists to come in.
Taking this into consideration, it is very likely that the entertainment complex will be adjusted in its approach to cater to the needs of the citizens of Saudi Arabia. It would be a gamble for the entertainment complex to offer more liberal forms of entertainment. The prospect of cinemas, clubs, and casinos being included in the complex is almost impossible.
While to anyone who is used to the western form of entertainment venues, this could seem rather bleak, the complex could prove a huge success with an emphasis on other activities, such as sports. Football is the national sport of Saudi Arabia and the country has a very successful national league. The national side has also reached four World Cups tournaments and won three Asian Cups till date. Other sports such as scuba diving, wind surfing, sailing, basketball, horse racing could also be offered at the giant complex. Infusion of more local specialities, such as camel racing, could be the cherry on top that makes the venue very personal for their local customers.
No Gambling at the Venue
Under Islamic law, gambling in any form is considered illegal. Given that Saudi Arabia is governed by this Islamic law, gambling is unlikely to be permitted in any form anywhere in the complex. The immediate outlook for gambling to be present within this new entertainment complex is not very positive. However, many other nations such as China, Japan and The Philippines have all set up gambling havens within their borders despite it being illegal for their citizens inside the country. Though slim, there may be a possibility of Saudi Arabia turning Vision 2030’s entertainment complex into its very own gambling hub, with some extra rules and regulations.
Tourism in Saudi Arabia
Unknown to many, the country welcomes approximately 15 million tourists each year. One- third of those are religious tourists who come for the pilgrimage to Mecca throughout the month of Dhu al- Hijjah in Hajj and across the month of Ramadan in Umrah. This leaves the nation with 10 million annual visitors who can be classified as non- religious tourists. There is some potential that these people can contribute towards the country’s economy through the Vision 2030 entertainment complex once it is up and running. Gambling is a very popular form of entertainment all across the world. Therefore, Saudi Arabia has the chance of increasing both tourist numbers to the country and income from the project if there is an opportunity to gamble legally within the confines of the entertainment complex.
Future of the Project
There is still a full five years left before the complex is scheduled to opening to the public in any capacity. However, people seem very excited about it already. It will be very interesting to see how Saudi Arabia approaches this project. It could potentially revolutionise their entertainment industry as well as their international image.