Las Vegas Sands Corp chairman Sheldon G. Adelson recently offered to build a $4.5 billion casino in Busan, South Korea. But there’s a catch: Adelson’s company will only build the luxury casino if laws preventing Korean nationals from gambling are either lifted or loosened.
By adding the caveat, Adelson is himself gambling that the government, hungry for more tax revenue, will ignore strong public opinion against legalized gambling, and jump on the offer.
Currently, Korea has 17 licensed casinos nationwide, with all prohibiting Korean nationals from entering –save one located in Gangwon-do.
Not only are all but one of the country’s casinos closed to locals, but so are those in the rest of the world, with current law making it a crime for Korean citizens to gamble abroad, though it is a law rarely enforced.
On Friday George Tanasijevich, CEO of Marina Bay Sands, a core affiliate of of the Nevada-based Las Vegas Sands Group, met with Busan Mayor Suh Byung-soo.
According to the Korea Times, the mayor is open to the idea (as is the Korean Tourism Organization) but the central government is the one to call the shots on whether Korea’s decades-old gambling laws will be repealed or revamped.
Tanasijevich and Adelson both firmly believe that a Busan location, coupled with its beachside attractions and infrastructure could rival other resort-casinos across Asia.
Foreigner Only Casinos Still a Thriving Industry
A consortium between Chinese company Lippo and American casino giant Ceasars Entertainment, are set to begin construction on a foreigner only casino in Yeongjong-do later this year.
Paradise Group, Korea’s largest resort and casino operator have already broken ground on another foreign only casino in November last year in the same area.
Recently, a casino group led by Chow Tai Fook in Hong Kong, inked a $2.6 billion deal with Incheon Metropolitan City which will see the construction of casino slated to be completed there by 2022.
Lots of new venues, but not one open to Korean nationals.
Answering concerns by the Korean public and regulators over the ill-perceptions of open gambling, Tanasijevich suggested that preventive measure could be set up that ban those with a history of bankruptcy or possessing a criminal record.
While there are two national lotteries Lotto and Toto, horse, motor and cycle racing, ponying up your paycheck anywhere else is strictly off limits–for the time being.
Is Korea Going to Allow Koreans in their Own Casinos? (2013)
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