South Korea’s gambling and lottery industry in 2014 posted its ninth consecutive year of year-on-year sales growth. But the rate of growth in gambling-related sales has continued to be sluggish at 1 percent – a trend that started in 2013 – the government confirmed on Wednesday. The best revenue growth performance was in the one South Korean casino allowed to cater for locals.
The gambling industry is defined in the national figures as covering not only casinos and lotteries, but also horse racing, cycling races, boat races and the local version of bullfighting, which involves two animals going head-to-head and no matador.
Total industry sales in 2014 were KRW19.87 trillion (US$17.64 billion), from KRW19.67 trillion the year before, the government said according to the country’s Yonhap news agency.
The 1 percent year-on-year sales improvement amounted to KRW199.2 billion in cash terms.
In 2011, sales growth reached 5 percent year-on-year. It rose 6.5 percent in the following year before softening to a 0.6 percent increase in 2013.
During 2014 revenue generated by Kangwon Land (pictured), the only local casino open to South Korean nationals, jumped 10 percent on-year to KRW1.4 trillion. Revenue at foreigners-only casinos increased 0.3 percent to KRW1.36 trillion, Yonhap additionally reported.
Despite the barring of locals from 16 of South Korea’s existing 17 casinos, foreign investors have been showing increasing interest in the market as Japan’s drive to legalise casinos appears to have stalled and Chinese players wary of China’s anti-corruption drive look for new venues beyond Macau.
But in December stocks of several South Korean casino firms serving foreigners-only fell. It coincided with a Beijing newspaper quoting an official speaking against the social ills of Chinese going abroad to gamble.
In 2014, South Korea’s sales of tickets for licensed lotteries and sales for licensed sports betting exceeded KRW3.28 trillion won in each case, up 1.4 percent and 6.5 percent respectively from the year before.
In contrast, horse race betting contracted 0.7 percent to KRW7.64 trillion, with annual sales from cycling and boat races also falling for the third straight year.
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"If the [Macau casino] concessions are put up for bid, there will also be a lot of giant Chinese companies, some having nothing to do with gaming, which would like to take over these enormously successful casinos”
Professor emeritus at Whittier Law School in California, in the United States, and a visiting professor at University of Macau