Las Vegas Sands is not giving up on its plan to build a casino resort—one that will allow locals in—in South Korea.
The U.S. casino operator said it will continue promoting its plans for a $10 billion casino resort in the country. George Tanasijevich, managing director of global development for Las Vegas Sands Corp., told reporters in Singapore that they will not stop convincing the South Korean government of the casino’s potential, “whatever it takes.”
Tanasijevich was quoted by The Korea Times saying: “Our interest level is high because we think the opportunity presented by the (Korean) market is a very strong one. So we will follow the guidance of the Korean government and Korean people.”
There are 17 casinos operating in South Korea at the moment, but Koreans are only allowed to gamble at one location—Kangwon Land in the upland area of Kangwon province.
Recently, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) awarded the country’s latest integrated resort license to Connecticut tribal casino operator Mohegan Sun, which has partnered with chemicals maker KCC Corp. to open a $5 billion casino resort at the Incheon International Airport.
Meanwhile, Las Vegas Sands’ proposal for a “world-class MICE (meeting, incentive tour, convention and exhibition) focused resort” has been snubbed by the government because the casino operator’s model will require legal gambling for locals.
The Sands executive, however, said what they want wasn’t an “open” casino, but “a restricted-only casino where locals have to pay levies and be subject to restrictions—if they are financially at risk—to enter the casino.”
Tanasijevich, who also serves as the chief executive of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, said the company is willing to double the $5.6 billion investment made to build the Marina Bay Sands.
According to the report, South Korea’s National Assembly must first pass a new legislation that will allow Sands to build its resort in Kangwon, but “the government has yet to show its clear stance due to the public’s negative sentiment against casinos.”
Credit rating agency Fitch Ratings Inc. has already said South Korea’s future casino “will have difficulty achieving robust returns on investments” due to the government’s rule of limiting the integrated resort to foreigners only.
“Fitch believes chances that locals will be allowed to gamble elsewhere in the medium term are remote based on our conversations with the country’s officials and incumbent operators,” the agency said.