South Korea, famed for having 17 casinos but only one that allows locals to gamble, plans to enable its citizens and foreign tourists to wager on new cruise ship services that will serve ports around the country, reports the Korea Joongang Daily newspaper.
Some major overseas cruise companies – such as Genting Hong Kong Ltd’s Star Cruises – operate shipboard casinos that only open once the vessel is in international waters.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries on Thursday announced that the government will launch South Korean cruises within the year, said the news outlet. The initiative will establish docks exclusively for cruise ships in Busan, Incheon, Jeju, and Sokcho, Gangwon, by 2016. Existing docks will also be modified to allow cruise ship access, the newspaper added.
The Oceans Ministry said it plans to operate two trial runs to major tourist destinations in South Korea and Japan within the month. The runs are intended to check for glitches, including dock usage as well as the departure and arrival process.
The government aims to attract three million cruise tourists by 2020.
“If the discussed plans are pushed forward without any problems, we will be able to launch at least a single cruise ship carrying the national flag and reach our goal of 1.2 million cruise tourists by the end of this year,” said Oceans Minister Yoo Ki-june, as quoted by the newspaper.
According to the ministry, in 2014 the spending by each tourist on South Korean cruise ships averaged KRW1.17 million (US$1,075). Total spending exceeded 1.22 trillion won, as there were 1.05 million cruise tourists that travelled on South Korean ships.
The number of cruise tourists globally is expected to grow to 37 million by 2020, 43 percent more than the 20.98 million recorded in 2013, according to a report by the ministry.
The number of Asian tourists is expected to grow particularly quickly. Asian cruise tourist numbers have already grown 68 percent in five years, from 430,000 in 2008 to 1.37 million in 2013. In 2020, Asian cruise tourists are expected to total 7 million.
During 2014, revenue generated by Kangwon Land, the land-based casino open to South Korean nationals, jumped 10 percent on-year to KRW1.4 trillion, reported the Yonhap news agency in March, quoting government data. Revenue at foreigners-only casinos increased by only 0.3 percent to KRW1.36 trillion, it added.
In January, the South Korean government said it would issue up to two new licences for land-based casinos to add to the two it had already approved in principle for a special economic zone near Incheon International Airport, which serves the capital Seoul.
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