Casino Scholar Sees Bleak Future for Jeju, South Korea Properties Once Japan’s IRs Go Live

Japan is still working on the debut of integrated resorts (IR), and the project is taking longer than expected. However, once casinos emerge on the country’s horizon, they could put South Korea’s casino industry in jeopardy.

Jeju Dream Tower
Jeju Dream Tower
The Jeju Dream Tower resort in South Korea at dusk. South Korea’s Jeju Island, home to foreigner-only casinos, could see a decrease in activity when Japan launches integrated resorts. (Image: Asia Gaming Brief)

Jeju Island in South Korea is home to a number of foreigner-only casinos. Its location makes it an ideal spot for international gamblers, with only scattered legal alternatives in the region.

When Japan finally introduces casino gambling, according to industry expert Yoon Tae-Hwan, Jeju Island might suffer. Although the first Japanese IR probably won’t emerge until at least 2028, Yoon believes now is the time for Jeju to prepare.

Japanese IRs Could Tilt Asian Gaming

It’s possible that, by February 2023, Japan will approve the IR plans Osaka and Nagasaki submitted earlier this year. The timeline has already shifted beyond its initial projections by about four to five years, but the finish line is reportedly finally in sight.

In speaking at the Jeju International Casino Policy Forum on December 19 and 20, Yoon, a professor at South Korea’s Dong-Eui University, made his stark prediction. GGRAsia reports that he warned that Jeju Island’s casino market will “suffer severe setbacks” once Japan’s IRs go live. The market has eight properties, three of which are currently closed.

The two-day event was attended by representatives from most of the major tourism-related businesses or entities in the region. Grand Korea Leisure was there, as were Jeju Shinhwa World and Jeju Dream Tower. All had the ability to hear what the experts had to say and make the necessary preparations.

One of those preparations, according to Yoon, is for casinos in Jeju to alter their paradigm. Instead of focusing on Chinese high rollers, which has caused major issues for casino operators elsewhere, it’s time to diversify.

Instead, they should focus on the mass gambling market. This is similar to what Macau’s casino operators are developing in order to reduce reliance on Chinese VIPs. They should also work closely with other tourist-centric activities in the region to create mutually beneficial programs.

In addition, it’s time to embrace the digital future. Yoon suggested that the casino market should connect to South Korea’s growing adoption of smart technology to enhance its operations. Furthermore, the gaming properties need to be able to give a complete IR experience if they’re going to compete with Japan.

Osaka, Nagasaki With Big Plans

The prefectures of Osaka and Nagasaki in Japan have huge plans for their IR projects. Both have laid out elaborate and costly designs as they jumped to the front of the IR race, ultimately becoming the last two standing.

There have already been delays in the approval process by the Japanese government for the projects. As local governments continue to wait for a response, they have tried to find a resolution before the end of this year. However, that’s not going to happen.

Osaka now believes that a decision could come in January or February. Should that hold up, it could lead to further delays in the development of the projects.

As a result, it might not be until 2030 before the first IR appears. That would give Jeju Island and its tourism industry seven years to make any necessary preparations for what Yoon says is inevitable.

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