Some South Korean casino operators are banging their heads against the wall again after the introduction of new pandemic restrictions on their activities.
South Korean media reported yesterday that local authorities have imposed new restrictions on public gatherings in several regions, which came into effect at 00:01 on Thursday November 19. Among the regions with additional restrictions were:
- The capital of the country is Seoul,
- Gyeonggi city,
- Gwangju province,
- some parts of Gangwon Province.
Incheon City is reported to follow suit at midnight on November 23rd.
The new restrictions differ depending on the type of establishment, while some facilities are allowed to operate at 30-50% of normal capacity. However, casinos and horse racing betting operations (bike, boat or horse) will be limited to 20% capacity, further hitting the local gambling industry.
Two of the three Seven Luck-branded casinos operated by Grand Korea Leisure (GKL) are based in Seoul, while Paradise Co Ltd operates one casino in Seoul and the other in Incheon. The latter is Paradise City, currently the only major integrated resort in South Korea to have already suffered not one, but two total closings due to COVID-19.
South Korea’s Agency for Disease Control and Prevention reported 313 new cases of COVID-19 infection on Wednesday, representing five consecutive days, during which the number of new cases exceeded 200, and for the first time since August 29, exceeded 300. Most (254) cases of infection in Wednesday turned out to be domestic broadcasts, of which 74% were in the Seoul area and 68 were imported.
GKL and Paradise prohibit admitting locals to their playgrounds, making them completely dependent on foreign tourists or dual citizens holding international passports. Travel in Asia has been reduced to a minimum, a phenomenon well reflected in the revenue figures of South Korean operators serving only foreigners.
While media reports cite Gangwon Province as one of the worst-hit areas, it is unclear what that means to Kangwon Land, South Korea’s largest casino and the only one where locals can legally gamble. Despite being a state-run facility, the government has not been shy about ordering Kangwon Land to close completely and remain closed longer than its competitors.
However, Kangwon Land was already operating at a small fraction of its normal capacity and, unlike its competitors, was intended only for foreigners. Recall that the gambling establishment is located in a mountainous region about 200 kilometers north of Seoul. This geographic isolation could allow the casino to avoid further restrictions when it finally comes out of quarantine.