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South Korea Betting On Foreign-Owned Casinos

5 October 2004

SOUTH KOREA -- As reported by Korea Herald: "In mid-September, the government-run Korea Land Corp. and HRH Construction Corp., a real estate company and part of a U.S. delegation to Korea, signed a memorandum of understanding to invest $3 billion here.

"HRH envisages a development project that would include casinos, theme parks, convention centers, golf courses and hotels in Korea's three free-economic zones - Incheon, Busan and Gwangyang - where foreign businesses are offered tax incentives, low rent on land and eased labor regulations.

"More casino-related deals may be seen this month when a second U.S. investment mission visits Korea to inspect possible development sites.

"The delegates are expected to include executives of Las Vegas-based casino and hotel operator MGM Mirage, one of the biggest stakeholders in the U.S. gaming industry. Universal Parks & Resorts, Busch Entertainment Corp. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts are also likely to come.

"'The U.S. investors found Korea a very attractive investment destination. They informally expressed their interest to even expand their investment, given supportive Korean government policies,' said ruling Uri Party lawmaker Yum Dong-yun, who received the U.S. delegation last month.

"…Currently, there are 14 casinos in Korea, all of them locally owned. Only one is open to Koreans and none have the grand scale and scope of a Las Vegas casino.

"…Korea is within a three-hour flight for more than 400 million people. A Las Vegas-style casino, especially one tied with a golf course, could be magnet for weekend visitors from China and Japan, generating windfall of tax revenue…"

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