A group of representatives from international casino developer Las Vegas Sands Corp last week visited the port city of Busan, in South Korea, reports the Korea Economic Daily.
The report stated that unidentified “key members” from Las Vegas Sands toured the Busan North Port area on June 8. The party also reportedly held an investment strategy meeting with the Busan Metropolitan city government.
The Korea Economic Daily stated that Las Vegas Sands is mulling the idea of developing a large-size casino resort in Busan (pictured), a city in the southern part of the country. The report however added that the casino operator wants to ensure local gamblers are permitted in the gaming facilities.
Las Vegas Sands 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.
Singapore imposes on Singapore citizens and permanent residents a statutory entry levy of either SGD100 (US$73.50) for 24-hour access, or SGD2,000 for a year’s entry, but is content to give foreigners free access.
Las Vegas Sands operates casinos in Singapore, Macau and in the United States.
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.
A total of three large-scale gaming resorts have been announced for Incheon, near South Korea’s capital Seoul. Projects – all reportedly featuring foreigner-only casinos – include: the Inspire Integrated Resort scheme, by U.S.-based Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and South Korean chemicals manufacturer KCC Corp, scheduled to begin operations by 2020; Paradise City, by South Korea’s foreigner-only casino operator Paradise Co Ltd and Japanese pachinko operator Sega Sammy Holdings Inc, to open in April 2017; and an unnamed project – for which construction has not yet started – by U.S. casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corp and Hong Kong-listed real estate developer Lippo Ltd.
Lippo said in a March filing it was in talks with Caesars Entertainment on a number of issues, including Lippo possibly disposing of its stake in the proposed Incheon scheme.
South Korea’s Jeju Island recently has also attracted a lot of new gaming-related investment. The semi-autonomous province is already home to eight casinos, all for foreigners only.
Among the projects announced for the island is Resorts World Jeju, backed by Genting Singapore Plc and mainland China real estate developer Landing International Development Ltd. The property should open in late 2017, according to the promoters.
Last month, a unit of Asian casino investor Melco International Development Ltd announced it was to provide consultancy services to a casino that is “to be developed” over a period of three years on Jeju Island.
South Korean firm Lotte Tour Development Co Ltd and Chinese state-owned developer Greenland Group are collaborating on a Jeju project – the “Dream Tower” – which also includes a casino.
While Kangwon Land continues to see “solid growth” in its business, the foreigner-only casinos in South Korea saw aggregate gaming revenue decline by 10 percent in 2015, Fitch Ratings Inc stated in a March note. The rating agency said in its note that the negative performance was related to dwindling gambling volumes from Chinese players, which was in turn linked to mainland China’s ongoing corruption crackdown and slowing economy.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China