Foreign casino resort a good bet

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Foreign casino resort a good bet

South Korea gave the preliminary go-ahead for a foreign consortium to establish a large-scale foreigners-only casino resort in Yeongjong Island, a free economic zone near Incheon International Airport.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Tuesday gave tentative approval to the bid by LOCZ Korea - a consortium of Las Vegas-based Caesars, Singapore’s OUE and Hong Kong-based Lippo - that pledges to invest 2.3 trillion won ($2.15 billion) to become the first foreign operator of a resort with an integrated casino in the country.

The venture would be the single biggest foreign investment in the Incheon Free Economic Zone. The Incheon authority estimates the luxury casino resort could draw 1.1 million visitors a year by its third year of operation in 2020, helping to generate a revenue of 2.7 trillion won and more than 35,000 jobs. The license could pave the way for similar luxury resort investments involving foreign capital.

South Korea has been late to join in the large-scale resort race in Asia. Japan plans to build four resort complexes, each at a cost of 5 trillion won to 10 trillion won, in Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa just in time for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. And Russia is ready to open two major gaming and entertainment resorts in Vladivostok.

With determination and consistent strategy, the government should use the momentum to expand the services market and strengthen competitiveness in the area as a new source for jobs.

It should benchmark Singapore, which licensed two casino resorts - one for foreign capital and another for locals - to generate wealth for the country and bolster the services sector. Singapore’s balanced open policy helped to draw multibillion-dollar investments and create 60,000 jobs.

The casino industry, however, comes with its downsides, such as addiction, profligacy and crime. The government must toughen casino-related regulations and laws and at the same time lead a social dialogue on the issues of introducing open casinos to everyone in the country.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 19, Page 30

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