The first ever Global Busan Tourism Forum was held in Busan towards the end of June 2016 and one of the hot topics discussed was the possibility of developing a mega casino resort in Busan that would boost tourism and spur economic development in the city. An academic from Macau stated that Busan, which is a port city, could be turned into a great tourist spot, especially if the city decided to partner with international and experienced casino operators.
However Glenn McCartney, the Assistant Professor of hospitality and gaming at the University of Macau spoke at the forum and said that it would be a mistake for city officials to look at the number of mass market visitors to the city and thereby conclude that a casino resort will be successful in Busan.
McCartney stated that the success of a casino resort in Busan had to be determined by quality tourism and the spending power of these tourists across gaming and non-gaming offerings. The Busan Metropolitan City data revealed that in 2014 the city received 3.02 million visitors. Macau on the other hand received a total of 31.53 million visitors during the same year.
South Korea currently has a total of 17 casinos but only the casino located in Kangwon Land in the Kangwon province permits locals to gamble. The Las Vegas Sands Corp headed by billionaire Sheldon Adelson has already expressed interest in investing $10 billion to develop a mega-casino resort in Busan. However Adelson wanted the South Korean government to lift the ban on locals and allow them to play at the proposed Busan casino. The Las Vegas Sands Corp wanted the government to introduce new legislation similar to Singapore’s gaming laws that would allow locals to gamble based on certain restrictions.
Singapore allows foreigners to enter its casinos free of charge but requires its citizens to pay SGD$100 to gain a 24 hour access to the casinos or SGD$2,000 to gain access for a full year. South Korea will have to make significant amendments to its existing gambling laws and in-doing so will have to strip the Kangwon Land casino of its exclusive rights of hosting locals.
The casino industry on South Korea’s Jeju Island has done rather well since the government decided to waive visa requirements for visitors from Mainland China. Chinese nationals are allowed to enter free of charge by flight, ferry or cruise ship and have been thronging to Jeju Island to play the casinos and enjoy a relaxing holiday. McCartney stated that if the government decided to develop the casino industry in Busan it would need to make sure that the local community was okay with hosting casinos and also ensure that the casino industry was properly integrated with the city’s tourism master plan.