2 foreign investors ruled out for Incheon casino

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2 foreign investors ruled out for Incheon casino

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced yesterday that two foreign bidders are unqualified to build an entertainment complex with a foreign-only casino on Yeongjong Island, Incheon, casting a cloud over the massive resort casino project initiated by the former Lee Myung-bak administration.

The bidders include a joint venture between U.S. casino giant Caesars Entertainment and Hong Kong-listed investment group Lippo and Japan’s Universal Entertainment as an independent bidder.

The result came after the Culture Ministry finished the preliminary government approval process last Saturday.

Multiple local reports assert that the Korean government assesses the two participants have a low credit rating.

The joint venture, named LOCZ, said it plans to invest more than 2.2 trillion won ($1.921 billion) in building a luxury hotel, a conference center, shopping mall, office building and casino, if awarded the contract.

The LOCZ, in which Caesars holds a 40 percent stake, promised $50 million in the first phase with 100 gaming tables and 150 slots, all of which would only be accessible by foreigners.

Universal Entertainment said it has set aside 3.5 trillion won for the Incheon project near the Incheon International Airport. The site belongs to the Incheon Free Economic Zone, a special district that the government looks to develop into hubs for logistics and international businesses, attracting foreign investment.

But the idea of building a casino resort has become a touchy issue. The former Lee administration lowered the bar of submitting a bidding proposal in a push to lure as many foreign investors as possible but President Park Geun-hye is not as enthusiastic as Lee.

BY PARK EUN-JEE, JEONG GI-HWAN [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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