South Korea’s state auditor has urged the country’s government to introduce tighter rules to curb gambling addiction that affects some South Korean nationals visiting the Kangwon Land casino resort (pictured in a file photo).
The call was made following the findings of a study conducted by the Board of Audit and Inspection, reported on Tuesday South Korean news agency Yonhap.
South Korea currently has 17 casinos, but the country’s nationals are only allowed to gamble at one of them – Kangwon Land in an upland area of Kangwon province.
The state auditor study found that a total of 2,165 South Koreans had visited the Kangwon Land casino with a frequency amounting to more than 100 days in a 12-month period up to March. Some 9,566 people had visited the property with a frequency amounting to between 50 and 99 days during the same 12-month period, according to the study findings.
South Korean nationals are legally banned from visiting the Kangwon Land casino on more than 180 days per year, according Yonhap’s report.
The Board of Audit and Inspection noted that while the management of Kangwon Land recognised those visiting the property more than 100 times a year as “compulsive” clients, the operator had “failed to roll out pre-emptive efforts to stop addiction”, Yonhap wrote.
The watchdog added – according to the media report – that regulations in South Korea regarding the entry of locals in casinos were loose compared to jurisdictions like Singapore.
Singapore imposes on Singapore citizens and permanent residents a statutory entry levy of either S$100 (US$80) for 24-hour access, or S$2,000 for a year’s entry but is content to give foreigners free access. Singapore forbids its two casino resorts from either reimbursing levy fees to players or offering incentives or complimentary items to locals in return for them renewing their yearly permit.
Kangwon Land reported net income of KRW142.81 billion (US$125.8 million) for the first quarter of 2016, up by 7.9 percent from the prior-year period. Revenue increased 2.6 percent year-on-year to KRW436.57 billion in the three months to March 31.
International casino developer Las Vegas Sands Corp has previously mentioned plans for a US$10-billion casino resort in South Korea – with the hope that entry to locals would be allowed, namely on similar terms to those granted to Singapore’s casinos by the Singapore government. A number of investment analysts have noted however that allowing locals to gamble in South Korean casinos other than Kangwon Land would require adjustments to the existing regulatory framework – even if there were some forms of social safeguard applied, such as an entry levy.
There are currently several new foreigners-only gaming projects under construction in South Korea. But those projects “will have difficulty achieving robust returns on investments” due to the inability to serve local gamblers, Fitch Ratings Inc said in a note in March.
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”We expect it [the first phase of casino resort Hoiana in Vietnam] to open in October, and by then basically 90 percent of the first-phase content will be launched – such as the golf course, and hotels”
Andrew Lo Kai Bong
Executive director of project investor Suncity Group