he Ministry plans to evaluate the business plans over the next five months and make a decision on the successful licensees in December 2015.
South Korean officials have been looking at ways to capitalize on the growing demand for integrated resort venues in Asia at a time when Macau remains under pressure from the Chinese government. Expressions of interest were granted for two gaming licenses that would build integrated resorts with casinos that are only available to foreign players.
Each project requires a minimum investment of 1 trillion won (US$ 890m) and amongst its offerings would include a casino, shopping mall and other leisure facilities to attract foreign consumers. The Ministry has indicated that it will announce later this month where the facilities would be located, marking the beginning of the full-scale selection process.
“We will push ahead with the selection process as scheduled to choose two entities by December,” confirmed a ministry official. “We will give them a license to build and run an integrated resort complex.”
Applicants include Mohegan Sun, operator of facilities in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, which has partnered with Incheon International Airport to build a huge complex with the first phase costing US$ 1.6bn and the total project up to US$ 5bn. Dubbed ‘Inspire Integrated Resort’ the proposed project would create the first ‘Airport City’ in the world.
Bloomberry Resorts has purchased land on two islands near Incheon Airport in a bid for one of the licenses. The Philippine company controlled by billionaire Enrique Razon Jr plans to build an integrated resort that in addition to a casino, hotel and retail space, would include an all-weather waterpark and amphitheatre staging recreations of historic Korean battles.
Las Vegas Sands, which is seeing profits shrink in Macau, has also expressed interest in one of the licenses but indicated that it would only proceed if regulations are loosened to allow nationals in the casino. If revisions were made to the existing gaming law, the Company said it could develop a huge complex that would rival Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
There are currently a total of 17 casinos operating in South Korea but only state-run Gangwon Land in the northern Gangwon province is the only casino that permits locals. South Korea has already approved a consortium of Caesars and Lippo Ltd as well as a joint venue of Paradise Co and Japan’s Sega Sammy to develop casino resorts in the country.