48 Yoo Tae-Yeol
PRESIDENT AND CEO
Grand Korea Leisure
POWER SCORE: 571
POSITION LAST YEAR: —
CLAIMS TO FAME
Appointed in June to lead state-owned foreigner-only casino operator
Seoul locations provide key competitive advantages
Yoo Tae-Yeol took over Grand Korea Leisure in June and has likely just formulated a strategic plan for his tenure. State-controlled, Korea-listed GKL and its Seven Luck casinos, two in Seoul and one in Busan, need a change. GKL has been losing ground to foreigner-only casino rival Paradise since the sector’s latest downturn began in early 2017 when THAAD missile defense system deployment cratered Chinese tourism. There are specific reasons for the widening gap this time. Bigger picture, Paradise has a growth catalyst – its new Paradise City integrated resort – and GKL, an arm of the government’s Korea Tourism Organization, doesn’t.
Assessing GKL, Morgan Stanley Equity Analyst in Korea Jay Lee writes, “Casino sales rebound is less likely to be as strong as that of the competitor Paradise, given lack of capacity.” GKL has the best casino locations in Seoul and a focus on expanding premium mass business, but that’s not enough. GKL expressed interest in an Incheon IR license in 2015 but didn’t bid. Back then, GKL was linked to US tribal operator Mohegan Gaming, which won a license and is developing an IR across Incheon airport from Paradise City and, coincidentally, ditched its Korean partner in May. Perhaps there’s still a fit there for GKL. If not, there’s still another IR license available.
For the full list of 2018 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.