South Korea has seventeen casinos and only the Kangwon Land casino resort in Kangwon province allows locals to gamble. The casino industry in South Korea has continued to thrive during the last couple of years and has benefitted from the decline in Macau’s casino industry.
Now the People’s Party of South Korea, the minority opposition party in the country wants to put across a revised gaming bill that seeks to gain approval for a second casino to allow locals to gamble. The party wants a new casino to be opened in the Saemangeum Development Area (SDA), which is one of the eight free economic zones in the country. Current plans for the SDA indicate that there will be three districts, and one of those districts which is around 36.8 square kilometers will be used for tourism and leisure activities.
Located in Jeolla’s southwestern province, the SDA is about four hours away from Seoul. Should the People’s party succeed in getting the bill approved, a new casino will be developed and locals will be allowed to gamble with certain restrictions. Lawmakers from the People’s party propose to put in place similar regulations like the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. An entry level fee in the range of $45 to $90 for locals will be fixed and they will be allowed to enter the casino for only 10 days each month. The Kangwon Land casino resort currently charges locals an entrance fee of around $8 per person.
JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd analysts are not very convinced that the People’s Party will succeed in getting a second casino for locals approved. In a statement, analysts DS Kim and Daisy Lu said “Saemangeum currently has the Special Law on Saemangeum Development, but it only allows [a] foreigner-only casino in this area. Thus, in order to open a local casino, the Special Law must be fully revised and pass the National Assembly, which is not an easy task.”
The analysts believe that the minority party will struggle to get public and political consensus for a second casino to be approved. They will face strong opposition from Kangwon province which have a monopoly till 2025 on the local market and also from other provinces and cities such as Busan, Jeju and Incheon who also want locals to be eligible to gamble at their casinos.
However Kim Kwan-young, a representative of the People’s Party said that they have the support from lawmakers in Jeolla province and also the backing of a lawmaker from the National Assembly’s Land Infrastructure and Transport Committee, which is the parliamentary committee that is in charge of the Saemangeum Special Law. As of now, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism which acts as the gambling regulator in South Korea is against the idea of opening a second casino for locals.