South Korea to approve more casinos to boost tourism

South Korea plans to approve two more foreigner-only casinos and the construction of about 5,000 new hotel rooms as it seeks to boost tourism investment by about 3.5 trillion won ($3.2 billion), according to media reports.

The government would choose operators to invest around one trillion won each in two integrated resorts by the second half of this year, part of a three-year plan to boost the economy, the government was cited as saying. 

South Korea’s casino industry is expected to be bolstered by its close proximity to China and the strong growth in inbound Chinese visitors. The number of Chinese tourists to South Korea grew nearly 41 per cent in 2014, according to the Korea Tourism Organisation.

Several foreign-invested projects are already moving ahead in the country, with other big names, including Las Vegas Sands having expressed an interest in the market. Although, some of the larger operators have reservations about the foreigner-only policy.

Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises has expressed an interest in developing a project on Yeongjongdo and signed a letter of intent on Nov. 16 with Incheon City, while a venture between Caesars Entertainment and the Lippo Group plans a more than $2 billion integrated resort on the island.

Chinese property developer Landing International Development has also said it was stepping up its investments in South Korea, with a plan to buy the owner of the Alpensia Casino at the Holiday Inn Resort in Pyeongchang for HK$868.6 million ($112 million).

The company already has two projects in Jeju Island in the south of the country with units of Malaysia’s Genting.

The government also said it expected an additional 300 billion won of investment in four new duty free stores. Three will be in Seoul, one on Jeju.