Over ten years ago, South Korea named several areas around the Incheon International airport as free economic zones. These economic zones were set up to attract foreign investors. Casinos are a mainstay of this inward investment so it came as a shock in the summer of last year when the South Korean government refused to accept bids from two major international casino operators to develop integrated casino resorts in the free economic zone near Incheon. While no definite reasons were given for the refusal to allow Caesars entertainment based in Las Vegas and Universal Entertainment based in Japan to invest in South Korea it is thought that financial considerations may have been the cause.Even though the South Korean government openly sought foreign investors it put extremely stringent criteria in place for these investors and this appears to have been the problem with Caesars Entertainment and Universal Entertainment. However, recently the government has let it be known that it may think of revising the country’s gambling laws to make it easier for international casino operators to invest in their free economic zones. This would mean that the very strict credit criteria may be eased and in the light of this both of the groups refused permission to develop casino resorts last year have put in new offers. In partnership with the Indonesia based Lippo Group, Caesars entertainment has put in a new bid and hopes to develop a 2 billion dollar casino resort near Incheon. Japan’s Universal entertainment has also moved to show its intention to invest in the same free economic zone by buying a property there. Another positive sign is that the American financial group PNC financial Services has made a bid of over 6 billion dollars to develop a casino resort although it is not yet known who would operate this proposed casino complex.At the moment there is only one integrated casino resort being developed in the free economic zone near Incheon airport. This complex is being developed by a partnership between the Japanese Sega Sammy Holdings and the South Korean Paradise group. However with the government’s recent change of mind it may not be too long before this development is joined by several other casino resorts.
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