Korea’s foreigner-only casinos post strong gains in 2018

GKL Seven Luck
GKL Seven Luck

South Korea’s foreigner-only casinos posted strong revenue growth in 2018, gaining 34 percent over the prior year, according to figures from the country’s National Gambling Control Commission.

Foreigner-only revenue amounted to KRW1.625 trillion, up from KRW1.207 trillion the prior year. Revenue at Kangwon Land, the only casino permitted to allow locals to gamble, fell 8 percent to KRW14 billion euros.

The figures marked a significant improvement from the prior three years when revenue for the foreigner-only properties, which include those run by Grand Korea Leisure under the Seven Luck brand and Paradise Co. under the Walker Hill brand, had been largely flat. 

The NGCC gave no commentary in releasing the figures. It said the number of properties in the country, including Kangwon, was 17. 

Overall gaming revenue in the country, which also allows betting on horses, boat racing, cycling, lotteries and bullfighting, rose 3 percent to KRW223.9 billion. 

The foreigner-only casinos were by far the best-performing category, with most others posting declines from the prior year. However, revenue from Sports Toto gained nearly 13 percent and lottery revenue was up 5.5 percent.

The figures show the strong reliance of South Korea’s gaming section on foreign tourism, which has suffered from rocky relations with its giant neighbour China. Beijing turned off the visitor taps in 2017 after Seoul chose to deploy a U.S. anti-aircraft missile system, sending revenue in the casinos tumbling. Visitation was also hit in 2015 after an outbreak of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome also sent tourism numbers into a tailspin.

Visitors to foreigner-only casinos in 2018 rose to 2.8 million from 2.2 the prior year, while at Kangwon Land fell to 2.8 million from 3.1 in 2017.