n a recent interview at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) in Singapore, George Tanasijevich, managing director of Global Development for Las Vegas Sands Corp., said that the firm will convince the Korean government and people of the opportunity its resort can offer, "whatever it takes."
Tanasijevich, who also serves as CEO of MBS, a subsidiary of Las Vegas Sands, is responsible for the group's global development activities.
"We understand this is an important decision for the Korean government and people. We are patient and the pace of this doesn't determine our interest level," he said.
"Our interest level is high because we think the opportunity presented by the (Korean) market is a very strong one. So we will follow the guidance of the Korean government and Korean people."
The government has previously thwarted the Nevada-based company's proposals to build a world-class MICE (meeting, incentive tour, convention and exhibition) focused resort a few times because Sands' model requires legal gambling for locals.
"I wouldn't say that our efforts have been thwarted. We recognized that this is a process we have to go through to educate people what the opportunity is and what we would like to do," he said.
"We weren't asking for the opportunity to develop something starting right at that moment in time. It was more of us continuing this education process where we hope to explain what we could in the contribution we would make."
The Singapore-based CEO said that Sands is willing to invest more than $10 billion, nearly twice its $5.6 billion investment made in developing MBS.
When asked whether $10 billion would be the maximum investment amount, he said, "It depends on how many buildings we are allowed to build and how many locations we are allowed to build in. It can be more than that."
He stressed that Korea is not just one of their choices but a must-go-to destination.
"Korea is a top development destination for us. We believe so strongly. We proposed some ideas for consideration so that people would understand what level of interest we have and how committed we are to investing in Korea," he said.
"But as I say, this is the process that takes time so that you, the Korean people and Korean government, can make the right decision on it."
For Sands to build an MBS-style resort in Korea, the passage of appropriate legislation in the National Assembly is essential but the government has yet to show its clear stance due to the public's negative sentiment against casinos.
"We know that nothing can move forward unless and until the Assembly passes the appropriate laws to allow for it," he said.
Public sentiment improving?
Tanasijevich said he remains optimistic about the passage of a law allowing the MBS-style resort, citing recent survey results showing that Koreans' sentiment has been changing.
"I think the public sentiment toward the resort is shifting. We can see the trend of increasing awareness and increasing support for it," he said.
In a Gallup survey of 1,033 Korean adults commissioned by MBS in late 2015, the company found that 74.5 percent of those surveyed supported the development of an IR similar to MBS in Korea and 25.5 percent were against.
However, of that 25.5 percent, the survey showed that about one-third changed their minds after being told that the casino was less than 5 percent of the total area.
Referring to the Singapore case, the CEO said that appropriate regulations can control negative side effects from a casino.
"We are proposing not an open, but a restricted-entry casino where locals have to pay levies and be subject to restrictions ― if they are financially at risk ― to enter the casino which will occupy less than 5 percent of the total integrated resort area," he said.
He explained that it is important that there be strict entry barriers into the casino and that the Singapore model has proven that with appropriate entry barriers, the potential negative effects on society can be avoided.
"Thus, we believe that any law permitting Korean citizens to enter casinos in Korea should include provisions that prevent entry to those who should not be entering the casino," he said.