South Korean casino operator Grand Korea Leisure (GKL) is exploring the idea of opening a new casino on Yeongjong Island but has denied reports it is planning a joint venture with US tribal casino operator Mohegan Sun.
Earlier this week, the Korean Economic Daily reported GKL would team with Mohegan Sun on a KRW 1t (US $912m) casino resort project near the Incheon Free Economic Zone (FEZ). The pairing would have represented the Connecticut-based casino operator’s first foray into the Asian market, but alas, GKL says there’s no truth to the reports – at least, not yet.
On Wednesday, GKL released a statement saying it was conducting a “feasibility study and many other kinds of research” regarding the Yeongjong project “but nothing has been decided, including any business partners or investors.” GKL confirmed that Mohegan Sun representatives had visited GKL’s offices but said this was nothing more than a courtesy call.
True or not, GKL’s Incheon project was said to involve 250 gaming tables, 1,500 electronic gaming machines, 1k hotel rooms and a 20k-seat concert arena. GKL currently operates three small foreigner-only casinos in South Korea under the Seven Luck brand and is known to be looking at expansion opportunities. The publicly traded GKL is an affiliate of the Korea Tourism Organization, a state-run tourism agency.
There are currently two approved projects for the Incheon FEZ: the Paradise City joint venture, which is already under construction, and the pairing of Caesars Entertainment and Lippo Ltd., which has yet to break ground. Several other projects have been proposed although the country’s regulators have yet to officially grant their approval.
PARADISE MISSES ITS HIGH-ROLLERS
Meanwhile, South Korea’s top casino operator Paradise Co Ltd. – which has partnered with Japan’s Sega Sammy on the Paradise City property – reported revenue down 11.6% to KRW 133.3b (US $122m) in the three months ending March 31. Paradise, which operates five of the country’s 16 foreigner-only casinos, said table game revenue dipped 12.9% to KRW 124.6b thanks to a 22.7% drop in table game turnover. Machine gaming was up 12.2% to KRW 8.8b.
Paradise didn’t provide an explanation for the table turnover decline. In February, Paradise said business was sufficiently booming that it planned to expand the number of gaming tables at three of its properties. Paradise has previously stated that two-thirds of its gambling revenue is derived from Chinese tourists, and China recently warned international casino operators to stop encouraging its citizens to “go abroad and gamble.”