As the region seeks to monitor an increase in COVID-19 infections, South Korea has directed Seoul-area casinos to close.
On Sunday, South Korean officials reported that 271 additional COVID-19 infections had been recorded in the region, the first time in almost a week that new infections had dropped below 300. But this slight win was not enough to lower the weekly average, so the country is enforcing tough new restrictions that are expected to take effect on Tuesday at 12 a.m. (24).
The Seoul, Gyeonggi and Incheon regions have been ordered to ‘Level 2’ of the COVID-19 mitigation strategy of the nation, which forbids all activities at which more than 100 people could gather. For the next two weeks, pubs, nightclubs and, yes, casinos will be forced to close altogether.
The news is another blow to the struggling foreigner-only casino operators in South Korea, some of whom heard last week that their maximum capacity would be reduced to 20 percent of normal as the affected regions went from level 1 to level 1.5.
The affected areas include two Seven Luck-branded casinos operated by the state-owned Grand Korea Leisure (GKL) and two casinos operated by Paradise Co Ltd the country’s largest private casino operator, including the integrated Paradise City resort near the international airport of Incheon. GKL said its casinos would remain closed until December 8, at an estimated expense of KRW5.1b (US$4.6m) to the group.
The government maintains that the new steps are appropriate to ensure that COVID cases are not overwhelmed by local hospitals. The government is also attempting to ensure that it is not appropriate to reschedule the annual national college entrance test, currently scheduled for December 3 and estimated to involve nearly half a million students.
The classification of Level 2 would also call a halt to local racing events (horse, bicycle and boat) that are among the only legal gambling avenues that local residents will take part in. Kangwon Land, located in a mountainous area some 200km north of Seoul, is the only casino where locals can gamble.