South Korean casino operator Paradise Co Ltd will spend US$26 million expanding floor space at three of its five casinos, Bloomberg News reports. The company is increasing gambling space to cater for the growing number of Chinese visitors, vice chairman Lee Hyuk-Byung said in an interview with the media outlet.
The casino operator plans to add 26 gambling tables at its casinos, mostly for baccarat card games, bringing the total to 252, according to the report. Baccarat is the table game of choice for Chinese and many other East Asian gamblers.
“If you visit our casinos, it isn’t full on the weekdays, but on the weekends from Friday afternoon to Sundays, it’s fully packed and very crowded,” Mr Lee told Bloomberg. “This means we cannot provide all the gaming needs of our visitors. By expanding, we can.”
Paradise Co currently runs five foreigners-only casinos in South Korea: one in the capital Seoul; one in Incheon near the capital’s international airport; one in the southern city of Busan and two on the island of Jeju, including Jeju Grand (pictured).
About 6.1 million mainland Chinese travellers went to South Korea last year, up by 42 percent year-on-year, according to data from the Korea Tourism Organization. Chinese visitors accounted for about 43 percent of all visitor arrivals in 2014.
Chinese VIP players accounted for 66.7 percent of table drop at Paradise Co casinos last year, the firm said last week. The Seoul-based company reported net profit attributable to controlling interests of KRW96.4 billion (US$88.3 million) for the whole of 2014, down 4.2 percent from a year earlier.
Casino operators in neighbouring countries have stepped up efforts to attract Chinese gamblers as the anti-graft campaign in the mainland drove bettors to seek out alternative gaming markets.
On Friday, it was reported that Chinese authorities are to target enforcement against casino operators from neighbouring countries that have set up offices in China “to attract and recruit Chinese citizens” to gamble abroad.
Mr Lee was quoted saying Paradise Co doesn’t market directly to gamblers in China, mainly relying on “word of mouth”.
The casino operator broke ground in November at the site of its Paradise City scheme at Incheon, to be developed in partnership with Japanese pachinko operator Sega Sammy Holdings Inc.
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Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China