The competition to obtain casino licenses in Yeongjongdo, an economic zone near Incheon International Airport that Korea is hoping to turn into a high-end casino city, is once again heating up as Korea is mulling over easing the related regulations for foreign investors.
According to multiple industry sources on Thursday, the government plans to announce its new tourism strategy later this month, which, among other things, would relax financial rules for foreign bidders to earn casino licenses in the nation’s economic zones.
“We are considering easing the bidding standards after receiving complaints that it is too difficult to meet the criteria of BBB credit ratings,” said a government official. “But we have yet to decide on detailed plans.”
Last year, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism rejected applications for casino licenses from Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment and Japan’s Universal Entertainment for failing to meet financial stability requirements.
Foreign bidders are now hoping to renew their dreams of operating casinos in Korea now that the government is considering lowering the red tape.
Caesars, which created a joint venture with Indonesian conglomerate Lippo Group for the Korean project, in December appealed to the government to build a 330,000-square-meter casino resort in the city that will cost up to 2.2 trillion won.
Universal, controlled by Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada, last week purchased a 136-square-meter site in Yeongjong Sky City in a possible move to seek a casino license again, according to industry sources.
The company plans to build two six-star casino hotels with 3,000 rooms, a business hotel, a shopping mall and other entertainment facilities.
On Jan. 4, PNC Financial Services, which owns U.S.-based PNC Bank, also submitted a letter of intent to the state-run land developer for a 7 trillion won casino resort project.
Korea’s casino operator Paradise Group, together with Japan’s Sega Sammy Holdings, has already launched an 11,190-square-meter resort project, with its construction planned to start in April for completion by 2017.
By Lee Ji-yoon