A second “locals” casino will destroy the country, says Jung

A second casino in Korea permitting the entry of locals will “destroy the country”, an international gaming expert warns.

In an interview with Korea Herald during G2E Asia in Macau last week, David Jung, Chairman of Hero Poker said allowing a casino to open within urban areas in Korea is a “dangerous idea”.

“If they ever announce that they will open another casino like Kangwon Land in Seoul for Koreans, I will write one-page letter to newspapers,” said Jung in the interview. “It would destroy Korea.”

Jung said the nature of Koreans and their emotional response to gambling could lead to problem gambling in the country.

“The problem is Koreans like to gamble, and how they gamble is different. Being very emotional … they are either happy or sad, excited or angry. … Every time they have those emotions, they bet more,” Jung said during the interview.

Jung’s comments come as the government seeks way to expand tourism revenue by opening two integrated casino resorts on Yeongjongdo Island near Incheon International Airport, as well as a cruise business that would be open to both foreigners and Korean nationals.

Currently Kangwon Land, located in a remote area of the country, is the only casino in which Koreans are allowed to gamble. It accounts for $1.7 billion of the country’s total gross gaming revenue of about $2.8 billion.

“Kangwon Land is the most profitable casino per square foot in the entire world. That one casino is (generating) the same revenue as 12-13 other foreign casinos, amazing,” said Jung.

Last week, Glenn Burm, partner at PwC Korea said to AGB that the country is unlikely to reconsider its stance on banning local access to casinos until after the monopoly of Kangwon Land ends in 2025.

“Kangwon Land has a monopoly until 2025 so it would be really hard to reopen the discussion until then we believe, because someone really has to come up new legislation to open up the discussion, special legislation,” he said.

Korea has been seen as one of the most promising markets in Asia due to its close proximity to China and cultural phenomena, such as K-pop. However, the ban on locals has dented foreign investor interest. Last year’s request for proposals for two new integrated resort licenses started out with a field of 36 bidders, but then dwindled down to one, granted to U.S. tribal operator Mohegan Sun.

However, some operators are staying committed to the idea for a new locals-permitted resort.

In March, George Tanasijevich, managing director of Global Development for Las Vegas Sands in an interview with Korea Times said the firm will do “whatever it takes” to convince the Korean government and the people of what its resort can offer.

“Korea is a top destination for us. We believe so strongly. We proposed some ideas for consideration so that people would understand what level of interest we have and how committed we are to investing in Korea.”