South Korean casino operator Paradise Co Ltd has reopened its gaming venue on Jeju Island despite keeping its other operations shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a filing with the South Korean stock exchange on Monday, Paradise announced that it was once again extending the closure of its casinos in Seoul, Busan and Incheon to conform with the government’s efforts to minimize further spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The casinos will now remain shut until at least April 20.
However, the company also announced that its Casino Jeju Grand had reopened on Monday at 6am. It’s unclear why the Jeju venue – which, like Paradise’s other gaming operations, are only accessible to foreign passport holders – was afforded this distinction, particularly given the current international travel restrictions to traditional holiday spots such as Jeju island.
Jeju’s local government recently sued two women who visited the island despite one of them showing signs of COVID-19 infection shortly after their arrival. Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong said the suit was filed “to send a strong warning against actions” that threaten further spread of COVID-19.
Paradise may only be opening some non-gaming operations of its Jeju venue in order to capitalize on reports of a domestic tourism surge as South Koreans are currently prevented from holidaying abroad. Or there are just that many foreign guests who found themselves marooned on Jeju when the travel restrictions were imposed and have nothing better to do than gamble away their refunded airfare.
Paradise recently announced that its March casino revenue had totaled a mere KRW19.7b (US$16m), down 60.5% from the same month last year and 69% below February 2020’s total. Total gaming revenue for the first quarter of 2020 is down only 3.8% to KRW155.2b, thanks primarily to a strong January performance.
Like its foreigners-only rival Grand Korea Leisure, Paradise shut down its casinos down on March 24. Kangwon Land, the only South Korea casino operator that grants local residents access to its gaming floor, recently announced that it was extending its shutdown until at least April 20.