Genting Singapore Plc, Southeast Asia’s largest casino operator by market value, will develop a casino resort on South Korea’s Jeju island to target Chinese bettors.
The $2.2 billion project will be jointly built with Hong Kong-listed Chinese property company Landing International Development Ltd. and initially target visitors from eastern and northern China, Yang Zhihui, chairman of the Chinese company, said at a press conference in Hong Kong yesterday.
The Genting group of companies has been expanding abroad, from the U.S. and the U.K. to the Philippines amid restrictions on its home soil, where Muslims are forbidden from gambling under Malaysia’s Shariah laws. Chinese bettors were the main contributors to Macau’s $45.2 billion casino revenue last year and have transformed the city into the world’s largest gambling hub, ahead of the Las Vegas Strip.
“Eastern and Northern China is very close to Jeju Island and it’s roughly about a one-hour flight, which makes so much more sense for people in Beijing, Shanghai or Qingdao to come to Jeju Island than going to Macau,” Yang said.
The Jeju resort will have a total of 800 gaming tables, including 200 catering to the high rollers, Yang said. It will be built on a 2.3-million-square meter site that includes a theme park, a shopping mall, villas and apartments as well as three hotels that will have 2,800 rooms, the executive said.
It would be Landing International’s first casino project.
About 4.3 million Chinese tourists visited South Korea in 2013, an increase of 53 percent from the year before, and more than one-third of the country’s total, according to data from Korea Tourism Organization.
Genting and Landing International will form a 50-50 joint venture to develop the project, which will be remodeled after Genting’s Resorts World Sentosa, one of Singapore’s two gambling resorts, Yang said. Construction will begin in June this year and the Chinese company may need to raise funds in the equity market to finance the project, the chairman said.
Genting Bhd., controlled by Malaysian billionaire Lim Kok Thay, is the biggest shareholder in Genting Singapore. It runs the Resorts World Casino at New York City’s Aqueduct race track, the top-grossing U.S. slot machine parlor, and is pursuing one in Miami.
Lim opened a 750-acre beach front resort on the Bimini islands in the Bahamas last year as part of the group’s expansion in the Americas. He will also spend as much as $4 billion on completing an unfinished Las Vegas resort it bought from Boyd Gaming Corp. last year. A resort is planned for Birmingham in the U.K. in mid-2015.
Back home, Genting Malaysia Bhd. is upgrading its hilltop gaming resort, where it operates the Southeast Asian nation’s only casino.
Harvard University-educated Lim is Malaysia’s third-richest man with a net worth of $7.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He said in an interview in July that he was keen to invest in Japan and Macau casinos, if licenses become available.