A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Thursday, February 12, in South Korea for the new Resorts World Jeju that has been planned. Jointly developed by Hong Kong-listed Landing International Development and Genting Singapore, the US$1.8 billion resort aims to rival the Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore.

The complex will be considered an integrated resort with its 2.5 million square meters of space including hotels, a casino, theme parks, a water park and convention centers.

Building is running behind schedule with the building plans for the resort announced last year and the ground-breaking event originally scheduled for June 2014. The plans were partly delayed by confusion over whether the complex would include a casino or not.

Won Hee-ryong, newly-elected Jeju governor said that the original plans for the complex, submitted by Genting Singapore, did not include a casino.

“In the Jeju business application plan, there was not a single word mentioning a casino,” he stated. “And we told them it was not acceptable. It was not that we changed our mind, but the area calculation was bogus to begin with, and there was a miscalculation of the number of rooms. We wanted the teeth and transparency on its casino plans. Once it all became resolved, it became approved.”

The resort will include more than 2,000 rooms, a casino, a theme park with more than 20 rides, attractions in seven different zones, an adventure water park and retail and food complexes.

“RWJ will be a game changer in Jeju that we believe can help the province attain its goal of surpassing 15 million tourists by 2018,” announced Lim Kok Thay, Executive Chairman of Genting Singapore.

“RWJ will contribute significantly to the local economy by providing employment opportunities to all segments of the labor force, creating approximately 6,500 direct and 25,000 indirect job opportunities in a variety of positions. At least 80 percent of the workforce will be local.”

Despite the many job opportunities it will create, the development plans have faced tough opposition from Jeju residents who are concerned about how the complex will negatively impact the island by turning it into a gambling center. The event included a focus on how the complex will benefit the local residents.

Jeju Island is already home to eight casinos. Koreans are not allowed access so the casinos all cater to foreigners. The Resorts World Jeju will focus on Chinese visitors. In 2014, around six million Chinese tourists visited South Korea – 43 percent more than a year earlier – making them the largest group of foreigners visiting the country.

Resorts World Jeju is expected to open progressively from 2017 and to be completed by 2019. According to Tan Hee Teck, president of Genting Singapore, the resort “will help the province achieve its target of 15 million tourists by 2018″