South Korea Sees Different Casino Strategies Put In Place

Casino operators in South Korea tend to pursue very different approaches to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.

After weeks of pandemic closure, foreign-only casino operator Paradise Co Ltd revealed on Monday that it would be reopening its three gaming locations in Incheon, Seoul and Busan. The news follows a week ago that Paradise casino reopened on Jeju Island.

Nevertheless, as Paradise was preparing to open, its competitor Grand Korea Leisure (GKL) announced yet another expansion to its three foreigner-only casinos being closed down. The latest, ambitious reopening date is May 6, which will mark seven weeks after the initial closure of GKL’s three Seven Luck-branded casinos.

Similarly, the largest casino in South Korea, Kangwon Land, which closed its doors on February 23, announced last Friday that it is extending its closure until Monday, May 4 at 6 am. Previously Kangwon Land forecasted that remaining closed until April 20 would cost KRW296b (US$ 240 m) in lost revenue.

South Korea’s efforts to minimise the spread of COVID-19 – including hundreds of testing facilities, tracking contact of infected individuals, and an evident reverence for research, unlike other countries – seem to have the expected effect.

On Monday, the country reported only 13 new infections with COVID-19, a major improvement from the hundreds of infections documented in early March each day. The total number of reported cases has fallen from nearly 8k in mid-March to just over 2k, while for many days running daily deaths averaged only two.

It is not entirely clear why GKL does not follow the path of Paradise in returning to operation, but Kangwon Land is a special case, because it is the only Korean casino where local residents have access to the gaming floor. Exposure to a potentially life-threatening virus is one thing for a bunch of foreigners, but placing the lives of locals in jeopardy won’t win any favours from Kangwon Land with an already testy government.