South Korean auditor urges curbs on locals entering Kangwon Land casino

korea-kangwon-land-casino-localsThe only casino in South Korea that allows local residents to gamble could face new restrictions thanks to its apparent impact on problem gambling behavior.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) released new statistics regarding visits to Kangwon Land, a resort in a remote mountainous region north of Seoul that contains the only one of the country’s 17 casinos at which local residents can legally place a bet.

Under South Korea’s gambling laws, citizens are allowed to enter Kangwon Land’s casino up to 180 days per year. The restriction is far more liberal than in other jurisdictions that attempt to limit local gambling, such as Singapore, which caps visits at no more than 72 per year and charges locals S$100 per visit.

According to the Yonhap news agency, the BAI believes Kangwon Land’s owner High1 Resort has failed to take preemptive steps to curb problem gambling. Kangwon Land slaps a “compulsive” tag on gamblers who visit its casino more than 100 times per year, but no further action to restrict access is taken provided a gambler sign up for a problem gambling consultation.

The BAI data shows that 2,165 South Koreans visited Kangwon Land more than 100 times in the 12 months ending March 31. Nearly 10k South Koreans made between 50 to 99 trips to the casino in the same period.

Kangwon Land’s monopoly on local gamblers allows it to routinely report revenue and profits that exceed the totals generated by all of the country’s other 16 casinos combined. In 2015, Kangwon Land’s revenue was up 9.2% to KRW 1.63t (US $1.3b) and profit rose nearly 23% to KRW 441b. In June, the casino ranked higher than Wynn Resorts on the Forbes 2000 list of most valuable publicly traded companies.

Numerous international casino operators have expressed interest in joining the mega-projects under construction near Incheon, only to back out when they realized the government had no intention of relaxing its locals ban.