Jeju Shinhwa World Casino Begins Games of Another Kind in South Korea, Just as Winter Olympics Wrap Up

Posted on: February 26, 2018, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: February 26, 2018, 03:42h.

At the newly opened Jeju Shinhwa World Casino, 300 miles to the south of the Winter Olympics that just finished up in Pyeonchang on Sunday, a whole new set of games are ready to pit opponents against one another. This time, it’s the classic battle of gambler vs. the house, with the latter in this case being gaming operator Landing International, the developer of the $2.6 billion integrated resort.

Jeju Shinhwa World casino opens
Landing International says that Phase One of its sprawling Jeju Shinhwa World integrated resort is now complete, following the opening of the casino on Sunday. The complex is also home to two theme parks and luxury hotels. (Image: Jeju Shinhwa World)

Sunday marked the kickoff of Phase One of the the venue on the island of Jeju, an island off of South Korea best-known for its Hallasan volcano, a semi-tropical national park, and a variety  of waterfalls and lava streams, all of which have made it a popular tourist destination in Asia.

The timing of the casino opening may not have been ideal, as island is hardly balmy at this time of year at a decidedly untropical average of 42° F.

The first facilities at Jeju Shinhwa World, the island’s first-ever such integrated resort, were rolled out in increments starting last September. They included convention facilities, two luxury hotels, a condominium complex, amusement park and water park, restaurants, and a shopping mall.

Surprise Decision by Regulator

In August, Landing announced it would move its existing licensed casino operations at the nearby Hyatt Regency Jeju Hotel to the Shinhwa World resort as a temporary measure, until the permanent, much bigger casino could be added before the property’s completion in late 2019.

Those plans were held up by red tape until February 21, at which point it authorities granted the developer full-scale casino operation permits. Instead of just a smattering of tables and slots transplanted from the Hyatt Regency, the casino opened on Sunday with 155 live-dealer gaming tables, including baccarat, poker, blackjack, roulette, and an Asian dice game called sic bo, as well as a combined total of 239 slot machines and electronic table games.

Like all but one South Korean casino, Shinhwa World will be for foreigners only, as nationals are only permitted to gamble at the remote Kangwon Land Casino built at the foot of a ski and golf resort, and where alcohol consumption and picture-taking are not allowed.

Diplomatic Rift

But Shinhwa World will not prosper from hordes of Chinese tourists, as Landing had hoped when the project was first conceived. The deterioration of diplomatic relations between China and South Korea following the latter’s decision to deploy a US missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula means the Chinese are currently banned by their own government from visiting the nearby country.

Regrouping, Landing now insists it expects half its revenues to come from domestic vacationers visiting its non-gaming attractions.