South Korea will reduce regulatory barriers faced by developers of integrated resorts that contain gambling facilities, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said in a report on Tuesday. The government aims to boost the country’s economy and tourism industry, it added.
Changes will include a bidding system for selecting casino operators, according to the report quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. It might be set up by the first half of next year, the report added, without providing more details.
“We will revise related regulations to foster integrated resorts and draw up systematic measures,” the ministry was quoted as saying. “We will adopt an open bidding system to give a preliminary approval for establishment of integrated resorts.”
South Korea has been sparing in issuing new casino licences in recent years. But the market still generated US$2.7 billion in gaming revenue last year.
The country also faces potential competition from neighbouring Japan, which may open the country to casino gambling in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. In July, a Japanese government spokesman said that country was considering setting up a special government unit to speed up its implementation process.
There are currently 17 casinos in South Korea, but South Korean nationals are only allowed to gamble at Kangwon Land, a difficult-to-access location 150 kilometres (93 miles) southeast of Seoul in Kangwon province
There are several large scale gaming projects currently being developed in South Korea, all of them targeting foreign gamblers, particularly mainland Chinese tourists.
South Korea’s biggest casino operator Paradise Co Ltd is partnering with Japanese Sega Sammy Holdings Inc for a US$1.7-billion scheme, due to break ground in October. The project, due to open in 2017, will include hotels and restaurants, and a foreigners-only casino.
Las Vegas-based casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corp is part of a consortium – known as LOCZ Korea Corp and also featuring Indonesia’s Lippo Group and Singapore-based real estate developer OUE Ltd – planning to develop a more than US$800-million multi-phase casino project.
On Monday, Gary Loveman, Caesars chief executive, said the company is working to open the casino project before the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, taking place from February 9 to 25 that year.
Both projects are planned for Yeongjong Island, part of Incheon Free Economic Zone near the capital Seoul and its Incheon International Airport (pictured). There is another sizable project under way on Yeongjong Island, but it is not yet known whether it will seek a casino licence, Yonhap reported.
On Jeju Island, mainland China real estate developer Landing International Development Ltd is partnering with casino operator Genting Singapore Plc to build a US$2.2 billion casino resort.
South Korea’s tourism ministry said it would provide support for these projects, expecting the resorts to contribute with more than KRW8.7 trillion (US$8.5 billiion) in tourism income, the news agency said.
“Asian nations [sic] such as Macau and Singapore are competitively building global resort complexes to attract foreign tourists, but South Korea has fallen behind in building world-class casinos,” the ministry was quoted as saying. “We will look at the ongoing resort projects and form a task force team to help resolve their difficulties,” it added.
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