The government regulations regarding the establishment of foreigner-only casinos in free economic zones, which were eased in September last year to attract more foreign capital, are put into reconsideration. Under the circumstances, the government permission for the Japanese and Indonesian casinos that made their applications is likely to be postponed indefinitely from late March.
“The purpose of casinos in free economic zones is to attract foreign capital but we need to think over whether it is the only way to meet the goal,” said Minister of Culture, Sports & Tourism Yu Jin-ryong on March 11 at his first press conference after the appointment.
The revised enforcement ordinance in question passed the cabinet meeting in September 2012 so that investors can ask the minister for prior permission for casino establishment with informal documents. Though the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism had had different opinions concerning the issue, former President Lee Myung-bak decided to move ahead with it at the debate forum for economic revitalization held in July last year.
Foreign companies have moved nimbly to set up casinos in Korea since immediately after the passage of the bill. For example, Lippo & Caesars, the joint company between the world’s largest casino group Caesars Entertainment and the Lippo Group in Indonesia, made an application for prior permission in late January to build a foreigner-only casino in Yeongjongdo, Incheon City. Japanese pachinko company Universal Entertainment made a similar application for a casino in the International Business Center in the Seoul/Incheon International Airport, too. The Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism is currently examining their requests and has to notify them of the results before the end of March at the latest. Domestic casino companies are in strong opposition, mentioning that the government is granting favors to the foreign companies.
“In principle, there is no doubt that more foreign investment needs to be made in domestic industries, including the tourism sector,” said the minister, adding, “We’ll go over the prior permission from scratch so that the most satisfactory results can be achieved.”