Caesars Korea Casino Resort to Open 2021, First Asian Venue for Gaming Giant

Posted on: May 23, 2018, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: May 23, 2018, 12:08h.

Caesars Korea — the casino operator’s first foray into the East Asian gaming market — will be completed in early 2021, according to William Shen, senior vice president and managing director of Caesars Korea and Japan.

Caesars Korea
An artist’s rendering of the $700 million Caesars Korea, which will be built on Yeongjong Island, near South Korea’s Incheon airport, which is a major international transit point. (Image: Caesars Entertainment)

Shen, speaking exclusively to GGRAsia on the sidelines of last week’s G2E Asia conference in Macau, said the $700 million project will be built in Midan City on Yeongjong Island. Seoul’s Incheon International Airport is close by.

According to Shen, the property will include around 750 accommodation units, including hotel suites and villas, as well as serviced residential apartments. There will also be a conference center, indoor theatre, amphitheater, retail space, spa, and pool.

International Transit Hub

“Our investment is … right-sized for the type of opportunity that is available to us as a foreigner-only casino,” Shen told the Asian gaming news site.

“The concern is always — it is a foreigner-only casino; it doesn’t have domestic [customers] in the way Kangwon Land has tons and tons of visitors. I think our model is one where we want to emphasize non-gaming anyways: the non-gaming capabilities, the non-gaming offers that we have to showcase,” he added.

All South Korean casinos, except for Kangwon Land, are open to foreigners only, but the Caesars Korea proximity to Incheon Airport, one of the busiest transit points in Asia, should supply it with a steady stream of non-Koreans: mainly Chinese and Japanese, Shen said.

Yeongjong Island is already home to the Paradise City integrated resort and there are several others in the pipeline, including “Inspire,” a project currently being developed by Connecticut’s Mohegan tribal gaming operator.

Macau Meltdown

In what proved to be a catastrophic business decision, Caesars, which was then Harrah’s, chose not to bid for one of six Macau gaming licenses when the enclave’s casino monopoly ended in 2002. Later, in 2006, it turned down a deal to buy Wynn Resort’s sub-license.

In 2008 — as the financial crisis hit Las Vegas and visitor numbers fell drastically — competitors LVS, Wynn Resorts, and MGM Resorts were sustained by Macau through the brutal US recession. As Macau grew into the biggest gambling hub in the world, Caesars was left saddled with billions in debt, staring bankruptcy in the face.

The company is determined not to make that mistake again. Along with Caesars Korea, it will be among the bidders for a Japanese license when that market opens up. But competition for a limited number of licenses will be fierce, and experience in the Asian casino market is likely to be a plus for prospective partners in Japan.

But although Caesars Korea is a first step, it won’t be completed in time for Japanese licensing consideration, meaning the operator’s failure to invest in Macau 16 years ago may return to haunt it yet again.