Korea: Sands Group is not giving up its $10B casino resort project
South Korea currently has 17 casinos in total, with only one of them, in the upland area of Kangwon province, allowing locals to play. The country is seen as a prime investment opportunity for casino developers, if regulations change. In fact, those developers aren't simply sitting around waiting to see if these changes occur, they are actively trying to coerce the government into changing their stance. Las Vegas Sands have outlined a $10 billion casino resort project for Korea. George Tanasijevich, who is managing director of global development for Las vegas Sands Corp has recently stated that he will never cease his efforts to convince the government of the benefits this resort could bring, and will change the mind of the Korean government, whatever it takes.
The “Meeting, Incentive Tour, Convention, and Exhibition” resort proposed by Las Vegas Sands requires the government to nationally extend the opportunity for locals to play, which has been a serious sticking point for the Korean government. The official line from executives at Las Vegas Sands though, is that they do not wish for an open door policy as such, simply one which is restricted, and requires locals to pay levies, and be subject to restrictions, in order to enter. The Korean public have hardly been welcoming of any shift in the law with regards to casino gambling, and the government view currently still reflects that.
Photo: Kym Koch Thompson
Vietnam: Hard Rock Group teaming up with Banyan Tree Group
Another country which casino developers would love to be given the freedom to develop in, is Vietnam. Like Korea however, having the locals be able to walk in through the door would really make a huge difference to how appealing this investment is. There are unconfirmed reports that law changes may arrive at some point, but nothing concrete has emerged yet. Even so, Las Vegas Sands have previously made enquiries, as have Hard Rock Group, who are bidding for a gaming license, with the assistance of Banyan Tree Group. Hard Rock are prepared to invest $100 million in a development which could generate 60-80 new tables in its first phase, with the entire project eventually becoming a $2 billion enterprise, once finished.
Japan: Hopes for the casino bill have vanished
While the two locations mentioned above still have significant legal doors which aren't showing signs of opening yet, casino operators held higher hopes for Japan, up until recently. Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson has previously stated his desire to spend as much as $10 billion to corner a part of this lucrative potential market, and for a while, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared to be levering open that particular legal door by gathering support for a bill which could see many new casinos in Japan. However, opposition voices were strong enough that the plans have had to be shelved for now. Recent reports suggest that the team in charge of the casino bill have now been disbanded, which doesn't bode well for Adelson's $10 billion dream, and would suggest that Abe has now shifted his focus elsewhere. The core of casino bill had been the potential economic boost that would be generated by opening casino resorts in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but that window has now essentially passed.