South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Thursday published its latest strategy to develop new so-called integrated resorts (IRs) in the country, incorporating casinos that will be open to foreigners-only.
The government has narrowed – from 16 to nine – the new sites that will be considered for such venues and is now conducting a “request for proposal” (RFP) process. The RFP phase opened on Thursday and runs until November 27, the ministry said on its website. After the RFP phase ends “approximately two” licensees would be chosen, said Business Korea in an English language report published on Friday, citing the ministry.
The nine places shortlisted are said to be six free economic zones in Incheon, near to South Korea’s main international airport; plus Ung-dong in Jinhae Free Economic Zone of Gyeongsangnam-do; a redevelopment area in Busan North Port; and Yeosu Gyeongdo Tourism Complex in Jeollanam-do.
An earlier process organised by the ministry – that ran from February 27 to June 30 and described by investment analysts as a “request for concept” – attracted 34 interested parties, reported South Korean media in July.
JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd said at the time that Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd and NagaCorp Ltd, operator of NagaWorld casino resort in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, were among the 34 parties expressing interest.
Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd said in a Friday note that winning projects must be completed within four years of the RFP phase and the minimum investment required by the government for each project would be KRW1 trillion (US$850 million), with a minimum foreign investment component of US$500 million.
The institution added that under the terms of the RFP the casino floor in each project would need to be 5 percent (or under) of total gross floor area. Additionally the venue would need to offer at least 1,000, 5-star, hotel rooms, 20,000 square metres (215,278 sq feet) of retail space; investment in meetings and conventions space worth at least KRW20 billion and a “themed attraction” investment of at least KRW70 billion.
There would need also to be at least two of the following in each project, according to Union Gaming: culture facilities; entertainment facilities; leisure/sports facilities; health/medical facilities; and food and beverage facilities.
Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen said: ‘The government will begin its RFP review in December and ultimately intends to issue two new IR licences. We believe these will likely be the final IR licences to be awarded for the foreseeable future in Korea (excluding-Jeju).”
Jeju Island is a holiday destination in the south of the country and where the local government has some semi-autonomous powers. Jeju already has small scale casino-hotels open to foreigners. South Korea allows mainland Chinese tourists visa-free access to Jeju if they travel there directly.
Union Gaming stated: ‘Given our view that Incheon is the preferred national IR area, we would expect both new IRs to be issued for this area. This in turn would bring the total number of IRs to four in Incheon, which includes two IRs already under construction: 1) Paradise [Co Ltd]/ Sega Sammy [Holdings Inc], and 2) Caesars [Entertainment Corp]/ Lippo [Ltd].”
Mr Govertsen added: “Ultimately, we believe the only other IRs in Korea will be located in Jeju, of which Genting Singapore [Plc] is already moving forward with its Resorts World Jeju project. We would also expect the government of Jeju to issue up to two additional IR licences for a total of up to three IRs in Jeju.”
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Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance