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New casino complex to be built near Incheon airport

New casino complex to be built near Incheon airport

A South Korean casino operator on Tuesday announced a plan to build the country’s largest casino near Incheon International Airport, the nation’s main air hub, amid the rising number of tourists.

Paradise Co. said it will build the state-of-the-art resort dubbed “Paradise City” on Yeongjong Island, which is located 40 kilometers west of Seoul. The facility will include foreigner-only casino facilities as well as hotels and restaurants.

The groundbreaking ceremony will be held in April next year, and the first phase of the project is slated for completion on 11,190 square meters of land by 2017.

A Paradise source said, “Paradise City will allow foreigners traveling via Incheon International Airport to experience Korean pop culture and enjoy entertainment.”

The first phase is expected to cost 1.9 trillion won (US$1.7 billion), the company said, adding it will continue to expand the resort to cover 322,000 square meters. The schedule for the subsequent phases were not announced.

Paradise said the project will generate 12,408 jobs with a production effect worth 1.8 trillion won.

Last year, the Strategy and Finance Ministry eased regulations building casinos in free economic zones to attract more foreign tourists.

Gambling, however, remains illegal in most of the country. Kangwon Land in Jeongson, Gangwon Province, is the lone casino open to locals.

“When completed, we expect (Paradise City) to attract 160,000 daily visitors on average, with Chinese accounting for 55-60 percent,” the source said. “But for now, we have no plans to open the casino to (South) Koreans.”

Yeongjong, home to Incheon International Airport, is considered a site for potential investment opportunities for domestic casino operators. Around 11 million foreign tourists visited the country last year.

Of the 2.38 million tourists who visited the nation’s 16 foreigner-only casinos last year, Chinese accounted for 40.7 percent, followed by Japanese at 33 percent.

Domestic casinos also saw combined sales reach 1.2 trillion won last year, up from 919.6 billion won in 2009.

A Japanese casino company, Universal Entertainment Corp., a consortium of the U.S.-based Caesars Entertainment Corp., and the Indonesia-based Lippo Group are also eyeing building casinos on the island.

Their applications were rejected in June by the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry, but the two groups are known to be planning new bids for approval soon.

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Peter Kim

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