Casino developer Las Vegas Sands Corp will continue to promote plans it has 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.
The sentiments were expressed by the firm’s George Tanasijevich, in his role as managing director of global development for Las Vegas Sands, in an interview with the Korea Times newspaper published on Sunday.
Mr Tanasijevich – who also serves as chief executive of Marina Bay Sands, the firm’s Singapore gaming resort – is responsible for the group’s global development activities.
“We understand this is an important decision for the [South] Korean government and people. We are patient and the pace of this doesn’t determine our interest level,” he said.
“We are proposing not an open, but a restricted-entry casino where locals have to pay levies and be subject to restrictions – if they are financially at risk – to enter the casino, which will occupy less than 5 percent of the total integrated resort area,” the Las vegas Sands executive added.
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.
The Korea Times report noted that for Las Vegas Sands to be allowed to build a resort in that country – with similar entry rules for locals as apply in Singapore – South Korea’s National Assembly would need to pass fresh legislation. The news outlet added that “the government has yet to show its clear stance due to the public’s negative sentiment against casinos”.
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.
South Korea’s new casino resort projects “will have difficulty achieving robust returns on investments” due to the inability to serve local gamblers, Fitch Ratings Inc said in a note on March 4. There are currently several new foreigners-only gaming projects under construction in the country.
The Korea Times report didn’t mention a possible location for a South Korean casino resort by Las Vegas Sands.
But the firm had previously confirmed to GGRAsia that its chairman Sheldon Adelson had travelled to the South Korean capital Seoul in 2014 for talks with the city’s mayor.
In March 2014 it was reported that South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye pledged to bolster service industries in the country to reduce its dependence on manufacturing exports.
The South Korean government had indicated it was willing to offer up to two new-to-market casino licences in the Incheon area near to the capital’s airport – but on the basis the casino facilities would be open to foreigners-only.
In February a consortium involving U.S.-based Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and South Korean chemicals manufacturer KCC Corp was awarded a casino licence, as part of an integrated resort licence bidding process initiated in 2015. The other licence up for grabs was eventually not awarded.
The licence issuance comes against a regional backdrop whereby investor hopes that Japan might soon pass enabling legislation for casino gambling recently suffered a fresh setback.
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