SEOUL, Apr. 16 (Korea Bizwire) — Foreigners-only casinos are showing better sales this year after a big dip last year caused by China’s retaliation over a diplomatic row, industry data showed Monday.
Sales in January and February reached 204.78 billion won (US$191.56 million), up 15.9 percent from the same period last year, according to the Korea Casino Association.
The local gambling industry took a hard fall in 2017 after China restricted its nationals from going on package tours to South Korea to protest the latter’s hosting of a U.S. missile defense system on its soil. Casino operator Paradise suffered a 3.9 percent decline in its consolidated sales last year, while the state-run Grand Korea Leisure Co. showed a 8.6 percent fall in its sales.
Data showed that the number of visitors to the foreigners’ casinos increased 1.6 percent in the first two months of this year to 366,000, mostly due to more customers from Japan.
In January, there were 5.2 percent more Japanese visitors compared with the same month of 2017. In February, the increase was 3.9 percent.
The number of Chinese customers continued to decline. In January, their number fell 3.2 percent compared with the same month of the previous year. For February, the drop was 5.2 percent.
In the case of Taiwanese visitors, their number fell 16.7 percent in January but picked up 32.3 percent in February.
“Chinese visitors are still the biggest group of customers at foreigners-only casinos, but their number continues to fall,” a casino industry official said. “We are seeing a turnaround this year, thanks to a steady increase of tourists from Japan.”
South Korea has 16 casinos exclusively for foreigners throughout the country.