South Korean casinos see hopeful signs of rebound as MERS fears ease

south-korea-casinos-rebound-gkl-paradiseSouth Korea’s casino industry may be breathing easier as their business appears to be rebounding following an infectious disease outbreak earlier this year.

All but one of South Korea’s 17 casinos caters exclusively to international tourists, visits by whom plunged 41% in June following a deadly outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Paradise Co Ltd, the country’s leading foreigners-only casino operator, reported a 47% year-on-year decline in profit during the second quarter of 2015.

But Union Gaming Research issued a note on Friday stating that Paradise’s August revenue hit just under KRW 49b (US $41m). While this represents a 6.2% year-on-year decline, it’s 44.5% better than July’s total and Paradise likely isn’t complaining. Union Gaming suggested that August’s numbers “seemed to revert back to their pre-MERS levels.”

Paradise’s table game revenue in August fell 7.6% to KRW 45.7b while electronic gaming machines improved 18.2% to KRW 3.3b. For the year to date, total revenue is down 14% to KRW 380.7b.

Grand Korea Leisure, the country’s second largest foreigners-only casino operator, reported more signs that the worst is over. On Monday, GKL announced that its three Seven Luck brand casinos had surpassed the 1m visitor mark as of Aug. 26. That’s 12% higher than the total attendance number recorded by the same point last year.

GKL was on track to set an even more impressive record before the MERS scare really took hold. The Seven Luck properties averaged nearly 4,900 daily visitors between January and May, but that figure dropped to 3,200 in June and dropped again to 2,500 in July. Attendance in August nudged back upward to 3,500.

While year-to-date attendance is up, sales are roughly flat. GKL says this is because it has been making an effort to attract more of a mass market clientele. The average Seven Luck patron spend around KRW 300k ($249) during his or her visit this year.