Pressure in South Korea to lift gambling ban on locals

The Asian country has a total of 17 casinos but allows locals to gamble only at one of these casinos, a venue located in Kangwon Land.

South Korea.- Casino operators have put pressure on the government to remove the ban that restricts locals from gambling. However, the government has made it clear that Kangwon Land has a monopoly on the local market that lasts until 2025.

There are 17 casinos in South Korea, but locals are allowed to gamble only at Kangwon Land casino. Last year, the South Korean casino industry’s gross gaming revenue totalled US$2.8 billion, with Kangwon Land casino accounting for US$1.7 billion of the total revenue.

South Korea’s casino industry has benefitted immensely from the collapse of Macau’s casino industry which was brought on by China’s anti-corruption crackdown. The South Korean government is in favour of the casino industry as it brings in a large amount of tax revenue. But the 16 casinos that depend on foreign visitors to generate gambling revenue faced a tough situation last year when tourism numbers dropped significantly.

Last year, the government decided to issue two new licenses for integrated casino resorts receiving a total of 36 applications. Most of those applicants also called on the government to remove the ban on locals as they did not want to rely on foreign visitors alone. The government did not lift the local ban, so 35 of these operators decided to drop out and only Mohegan Sun received a gambling license.

“We analyse, it’s critical that they need to raise more than 50 percent of revenue from non-gaming section to be successful. The number of foreign visitors is limited and the increase in visitors may be limited as well, so in order to secure the profit you need to secure domestic people coming in to the resort as well and foreign visitors coming in with families to spend time,” said Glenn Burm, a partner at PwC Korea, in a statement. Burm believes that the South Korean government will seriously consider lifting the local ban if competition from neighbouring countries such as Japan may arise, but since there is no progress in Japan’s casino legalisation, it does not seem to be any immediate threat to South Korean casinos.