South Korea’s Kangwon Land Casino posted an increase in turnover of 5.8% in 2013, good for 1,279 billion won (US$1.25 billion).
Admissions at the casino, the only one in the country open to Korean nationals, were up slightly last year (1.4%) to 3 million; and despite its remote location in a depressed former coal-mining region the far northeast of the country the property has managed to grow turnover 10.7% since 2009, according to new figures from the Korea Leisure Industry Institute, a government-sponsored think tank.
However, sports betting (Sports Toto) and lottery (Lotto) have far surpassed that pace with rates of growth of 75.5% and 30.9%, respectively, over the same period.
Last year, South Korea generated 18,284.7 billion won from all forms of domestic gambling, essentially flat with 2012, with pari-mutuel betting on cycling and boat racing suffering declines in revenue of 7.4% and 4.3%, respectively, and declines in attendance of 16.3% and 13.2%.
Lotto sales, which account for 17.7% of the total domestic market, rose 1.5% last year to 3,234 billion won.
The institute didn’t factor in the 16 casinos open to foreigners, whose combined annual revenues historically have roughly matched Kangwon Land’s. Two companies, privately held Paradise Group and government-backed Grand Korea Leisure, control about 90% of the take, split roughly between them. Neither has shown especially robust growth. Grand Korea Leisure, which is publicly traded, reported a 4% increase in revenue in the fourth quarter, but that was attributed mostly to above-average hold, as table drop was down 13% and fewer Chinese and Japanese high rollers patronized its three properties in Seoul and Busan. Operating profit was up 30%, but higher expenses resulted in an 11% decline in net profit.
The government, which generally is cool to gambling, has more recently come around to recognizing the value of the industry as a tourism driver and a source of foreign investment and has designated a special economic zone around the main international airport near Incheon for large-scale casinos. Paradise is developing a gaming resort there with a hotel and supporting attractions in partnership with Japanese pachinko giant Sega Sammy. A joint venture led by Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment also has won tentative approval to build in the zone.
In the far south, on the popular tourist island of Jeju, a joint venture led by Genting has been approved to develop a mixed-use resort with a casino.