Another multi-billion U.S. dollar casino project has been proposed for the vicinity of Incheon International Airport in South Korea – this time by the airport operator itself.
The project might cost KRW5 trillion (US$4.6 billion) to KRW6 trillion, said Lim Byung Kee, an official at Incheon International Airport Corp, in a phone interview with Bloomberg News. The airport is looking to receive proposals to build the facilities and sign deals this year, he added.
“We have benchmarked Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore for the integrated resort project here,” the official reportedly said, referring to the standard set by the Singapore casino resort developed and operated by Genting Singapore Plc, a unit of Malaysian conglomerate Genting Bhd.
“We want to attract more visitors from China, taking advantage of the close distance,” Bloomberg reported the Incheon airport official saying.
Incheon International Airport, which serves the South Korean capital Seoul, recorded 45.5 million passengers passing through it in 2014, a 9.7 percent year-on-year rise according to the country’s Yonhap news agency.
The number of Chinese tourists to South Korea grew 46 percent in 2014, to 6.33 million, Yonhap has additionally reported.
Media reports on February 6 said the Chinese authorities are expressing concern about casino operators from neighbouring countries that have set up offices in China “to attract and recruit Chinese citizens” to gamble abroad. Bloomberg quoted Hua Jingfeng, a deputy director at China’s Ministry of Public Security, as saying enforcement against such marketing was likely.
Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, co-chairman of casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd, stated on February 2 that in his view areas such as Incheon cannot guarantee a daily traffic of 30,000 visitors – a key requirement to make a large and expensive integrated casino-resort project viable, he said quoted by Reuters news agency.
He added that South Korea’s foreigners-only entry policy for 16 of its 17 current casinos made investing there “difficult”.
South Korea has already approved two foreigners-only gaming resorts near Incheon’s airport, located 50 kilometres (31 miles) southwest of Seoul. They include one project by a consortium involving U.S.-based Caesars Entertainment Corp and Hong Kong-listed Lippo Ltd. Last year Caesars also proposed building a ‘fly in fly out‘ casino on property partly controlled by Manila International Airport in the Philippines.
The other current Incheon scheme under development is a joint venture of local casino operator Paradise Co Ltd and Japan’s Sega Sammy Holdings Inc.
The South Korean government has said it might issue two new casino licences in the country provided there is a minimum investment at each of KRW1 trillion. It didn’t specify if they would be for the Incheon area.
Other investors that have been linked to the Incheon area include the Philippines firm Bloomberry Resorts Corp, developer and operator of Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila. Bloomberry announced late last month that it had acquired land near the airport.
Also linked to a potential Incheon project is Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd, a privately held firm founded by Cheng Yu Tung, for many years an investor in Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau SA, the parent of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd.
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”The project [in South Korea] continues apace in terms of detailed design, where we have now reached the 90 percent threshold”
Chief executive of U.S. tribal casino operator Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment