(Adds executive's comments on strategy, potential Saudi expansion)
DUBAI, April 15 (Reuters) - Caesars Entertainment Corp announced plans on Sunday to manage two luxury hotels and a beach club in Dubai, the casino operator's first non-gaming resorts.
The operator of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas said it signed a non-binding letter of intent with Dubai's state-linked Meraas Holding to manage the hotels, located on the Bluewaters Island development. The Caesars-branded resorts would feature 479 hotel rooms and 12 restaurants and bars.
The new hotels, Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai and Caesars Bluewaters Dubai, will open in the fourth quarter, Meraas said in a separate statement.
Bob Morse, president of hospitality for Caesars, told Reuters his firm would operate more non-gaming resorts around the world in coming years as part of a strategic plan focusing on financial centres as well as traditional resort areas.
"We are looking at other locations and actively pursuing opportunities there," Morse said, adding that Caesars had expanded its development team for non-gaming business in recent months and was looking at Asia as well as the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
Gambling is banned in the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states where the local populations are overwhelmingly Muslim, but the region has a large expatriate population, and Morse said Caesars expected some of its Gulf customers would be drawn to its U.S. gaming resorts.
Saudi Arabia is beginning to develop a non-religious tourism industry under reforms designed to reduce the economy's dependence on oil exports, and Morse said his company was looking at opportunities there although it was not so far in concrete negotiations.
"Certainly with the crown prince's reforms, Saudi Arabia has become far more attractive for a Western brand like us," he said, adding that it might take several years for Caesars to open in the kingdom. (Reporting by Alexander Cornwell and Andrew Torchia; Editing by Adrian Croft)