United States-based casino brand Caesars Entertainment has disposed of its entire stake in a planned casino scheme for Incheon, South Korea, to its former partner, Hong Kong-listed Guangzhou R&F Properties Co Ltd. The project, which had been known as “Caesars Korea Resort Complex”, was due to have a foreigner-only casino.
The disposal occurred in late January, confirmed to GGRAsia an official from the Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority (IFEZA), the public body overseeing the site. The official – who asked not to be identified by name – was unable to clarify what consideration, if any, was involved in the disposal.
The scheme (pictured in an artist’s rendering), also known as Midan City Resort Complex, is now being promoted by an entity called R&F Korea (RFKR). Formerly, an entity called RFCZ Korea, which had been a 50-50 joint-venture between what was then known as Caesars Entertainment Corp, and China’s Guangzhou R&F, had been promoting the scheme.
The RFKR entity officially submitted a request to South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, in early February this year, to postpone the opening of the first phase of the scheme, from March 17, 2021, to “March 2024”, a ministry representative confirmed to GGRAsia on Thursday.
The ministry would require RFKR to find a new partner; one with casino-operations experience, said separately on Thursday an official from IFEZA in comments to GGRAsia.
The official expected that the ministry would give a response before April, regarding RFKR’s request for a three-year postponement of the scheme’s opening.
Caesars Entertainment Corp was taken over by U.S. regional casino operator Eldorado Resorts Inc in a US$17-billion deal completed in July last year, with the merged operation renamed as Caesars Entertainment Inc, with a U.S. listing under that name.
In June 2019, soon after the merger plan had been announced, a senior executive at Eldorado Resorts, had said regarding Caesars’ ambitions for operations in Asia, that the opportunity would have to be “stupendous for us to be running in that direction”.
In August 2019, Caesars Entertainment Corp had said it was dropping its pursuit of a Japan casino licence.
The South Korea scheme is located near the country’s capital Seoul, at Incheon, the site of the nation’s main international air hub. The project had been described by the original promoters as a multiphase scheme.
A webpage for Caesars Korea – now offline, but previously looked at by GGRAsia – had said the scheme was to include, as well as a foreigner-only casino, a hotel, and serviced apartments offering in aggregate more than 720 rooms, suites, and villas. Total investment amount was put at KRW850 billion (US$767.5 million). The gross floor area was put at 172,249 square metres (1.85 million sq feet).
According to local news outlets, the-then Caesars Korea and Guangzhou R&F had previously been in prolonged talks on financing the project. Construction was suspended in February 2020, with the first phase approximately 25 percent completed, an official from IFEZA confirmed on Thursday to GGRAsia.
Another IFEZA official had stated – in response to a GGRAsia enquiry late last year – that Caesars Entertainment and Guangzhou R&F had come to doubt the feasibility of previous business forecasts for the project, following the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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