A consortium including a unit of U.S. casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corp on Monday made a conditional deal to acquire the land for a casino project at Incheon, in South Korea, for just under US$95.9 million.
Hong Kong-listed real estate developer Lippo Ltd, a parent company of consortium fellow member Lippo Worldwide Investments Ltd, said so in a filing. The plot has an area of approximately 89,170 square metres.
The grouping – known as LOCZ Korea Corp – is planning a multi-phase casino project on a site close to Seoul’s Incheon International Airport (pictured). The casino will serve foreigners. Currently only Kangwon Land – a difficult-to-access casino resort 150 kilometres (93 miles) southeast of Seoul in Kangwon province – is open to locals.
In October, Steven Tight, president international development for Caesars Entertainment, told GGRAsia the aim was to start construction on the scheme in July 2015.
Gaming for the venue is slated to be managed by Caesars. Gary Loveman, chairman of the firm, in August said the company is working to open the resort before the 2018 Winter Olympics. The games will be held in South Korea and are expected to bring an influx of fresh foreign visitors to a country that recorded 12 million inbound tourists in 2013, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Macau received nearly 30 million tourists in the same period.
The Incheon project was described in March in a filing to Singapore Exchange Ltd by one of the other consortium partners as a KRW855 billion (US$838.8 million) scheme with gross floor area of more than 150,000 square metres (1.61 million square feet) on a 4.3-hectare (10.6-acre) site.
According to Monday’s filing by Lippo Ltd, the right to acquire the target land for the venue was negotiated in 2007 between the title holder Incheon Development Tourism Corp and Midan City Development Co Ltd. The latter firm is 38.5 percent owned by Lippo Ltd. Under the deal, Midan City will sell its rights to the land to the consortium.
The other members of LOCZ Korea Corp are Caesars Korea Holding Co LLC, a U.S. firm wholly owned by Caesars Entertainment, and OUE International Holdings Pte Ltd, a Singapore company that is wholly owned by Singapore real estate firm OUE Ltd.
The OUE parent is in turn 55 percent owned by Lippo Group, according to a Moody’s Investors Service report on Caesars issued in April.
Reuters reported in March that the equity allocation between the consortium partners in the South Korean joint venture would be 40 percent from Caesars, 40 percent from OUE and 20 percent from Lippo Group.
Caesars’ scheme is not the only casino planned for Incheon Free Economic Zone. In July, Paradise Co Ltd – currently South Korea’s biggest casino operator – said it was linking with Japan’s Sega Sammy Holdings Inc for a US$1.7-billion scheme called Paradise City. The development is projected to open in 2017.
Standard Chartered Equity Research analysts Tyler Ahn in Seoul and Philip Tulk based in Hong Kong said in a report in September that up to three more casino licences might be authorised for Incheon by the South Korean authorities.
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"If the [Macau casino] concessions are put up for bid, there will also be a lot of giant Chinese companies, some having nothing to do with gaming, which would like to take over these enormously successful casinos”
Professor emeritus at Whittier Law School in California, in the United States, and a visiting professor at University of Macau