The Race to Build South Korean Casinos Is On

A development partnership that includes U.S. gaming giant Caesars Entertainment Corp. has inked an agreement to construct a US$838 million casino resort in Incheon, South Korea. Paradise also plans a new resort in the same vicinity.

Looking ahead to 2018 Olympics

A partnership including Caesars Entertainment Corp. has signed a deal to acquire a 10.6-acre tract of land for a casino development at Incheon, South Korea. The partners paid US$95.9 million for the land.

According to GGRAsia, the consortium known as LOCZ Korea Corp. is planning a casino that will serve foreigners only near Incheon International Airport in Seoul. The only Korean casino now open to residents is Kangwon Land, located in remote Kangwon province.

Caesars will manage gaming for the property, which will begin construction in July 2015. Caesars Chairman Gary Loveman said last summer that the resort will be ready by the opening of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The games are expected to bring a flood of foreign visitation to South Korea, which welcomed 12 million visitors in 2013, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Almost 30 million tourists traveled to Macau during the same period, reported GGRAsia.

The Incheon project will cost KRW855 billion (US$838.8 million) and cover more 150,000 square meters (1.61 million square feet).

Along with Caesars Korea Holding Co. LLC, a U.S. firm wholly owned by Caesars Entertainment, the other members of LOCZ Korea Corp. are Hong Kong-listed real estate developer Lippo Ltd., a parent company of consortium fellow member Lippo Worldwide Investments Ltd.; and OUE International Holdings Pte. Ltd., a Singapore company owned by Singapore real estate firm OUE Ltd.

OUE parent is 55 percent-owned by Lippo Group, according to Moody’s Investors Service. Reuters reported last year that the equity allocation among the partners would be 40 percent from Caesars, 40 percent from OUE and 20 percent from Lippo Group.

Another casino is also planned for Incheon Free Economic Zone in advance of the Olympics. In July, Paradise Co. Ltd., now South Korea’s biggest casino operator, announced it would join with Japan’s Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. for a US$1.7 billion resort at Yeongjong Island called Paradise City. The development, with 160 gaming tables, 340 slot machines and a 750-room hotel, is projected to open in 2017. And three more casino licenses may be authorized for Incheon, according to a September report from Standard Chartered Equity Research.

According to the Korea Herald, South Korea is now the third most popular destination for Mainland Chinese tourists after Hong Kong and Macau. The figure is expected to reach 6.1 million by the end of this year, up about 40.9 percent from 2013. The number grew by more than half from 2012 to 2013.

“It’s important to diversify the range of foreign tourists to Korea,” Rhee Jae-sung, vice president for marketing of the Korea Tourism Organization, told the Herald. “Muslim tourists have emerged as another large group of foreign tourists in Korea. We are targeting Muslim countries in Asia and the Middle East with new strategies.”