Some casinos in South Korea have banned the entry of Chinese package tour groups in a move to prevent the spread of a newly-identified coronavirus, an industry source confirmed to GGRAsia on Tuesday. The source of an outbreak of infection involving the novel coronavirus is believed to have been Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province.
South Korean casino operator Paradise Co Ltd, which operates foreigner-only venues in the country, has not allowed the entry of organised groups of Chinese tourists since January 27, reported the Yonhap news agency. A company representative confirmed to GGRAsia that Paradise Co’s casinos have temporarily “banned the entry of Chinese group tourists”.
“This is not compulsory by [the country's] Ministry of Tourism,” said the spokesperson, adding that it had been a decision from the company.
Most of Paradise Co’s customers “are individual VIP tourists,” according to Yonhap. The Paradise Co representative said the company’s ban targets only Chinese tour groups. “We do not have any plan to extend it to individuals,” the person told us.
Paradise Co currently operates four casinos in the country, including casino resort Paradise City. The company told Yonhap that it had set up thermal scanning points for body-temperature checks in all of its venues.
Market rival Grand Korea Leisure Co Ltd – which operates three foreigner-only casinos in South Korea under the Seven Luck brand – has also decided to ban the entry of Chinese package tour groups, reported the media outlet.
Credit ratings agency S&P Global said in a recent report that Asia-Pacific casino operators beyond Macau have cash-flow risk – and in some cases debt service risk – in relation to China’s coronavirus emergency, because of their exposure to the mainland China consumer segment.
South Korea had reported 15 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday. The country’s prime minister Chung Sye-kyun announced on Sunday that South Korea would bar entry to all foreign nationals who have been in China’s Hubei province in the past two weeks. The restrictions were effective from today (Tuesday), and will last for an unspecified period until incidence of the disease drops off.
The South Korean government said it would consider later whether to expand the measure to other parts of China, according to local media. The government said it would also limit entry from China by tightening the issuance of entry visas to those with Chinese passports and suspending short-term visas for travel.
The Jeju provincial government – a South Korean holiday island host to several foreigner-only casinos – is said to be mulling a temporary suspension of a visa-free scheme for Chinese visitors.
Dozens of countries have restricted travel to China, and more than 20 airlines have suspended flights to and from the mainland, some including also flights to Macau and Hong Kong.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 20,600 cases and 427 deaths had been reported, with Hong Kong confirming on Tuesday the second death outside of mainland China. The first death outside China had been confirmed on Sunday by the Philippines.
(Updated at 8.30pm, Feb 4)
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