South Korea’s casino industry has been one of the main beneficiaries of Macau’s casino industry collapse which was brought on by an anti-corruption crackdown launched in 2014 by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The crackdown targeted VIP gamblers in Macau who were suspected of money laundering activities, breaching tax regulations and having links to the criminal underworld.
The crackdown scared Macau’s VIP gamblers away who then decided to go to neighbouring countries such as South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia where gambling laws were a lot friendlier. South Korea has a total of 17 casinos and only one casino in Kangwon Land allows locals to gamble. As a result, South Korean casino operators depend heavily on the tourist market and successfully attracting them to visit their integrated casino resorts.
South Korean casinos continue to target Mainland China and attract both mass market as well as VIP gamblers as it is just a short plane ride across the border. Jeju Air recently announced that it was opening a new route between Macau and Seoul in an effort to cater to the growing number of tourists from Mainland China who are interested in visiting South Korea.
In a statement, Seok-Joo Lee, vice president for Jeju Air said
“Whenever Jeju Air launched a new route we were not only creating opportunities to grow our market size and share but it was always a win-win situation, for Jeju Air and for the destinations as well. This time this will happen again. Expect more tourists to come to Korea and from Jeju Air.”
Jeju Air will start flights on the new route before the end of this year and in time for the hectic Christmas season. The Jeju Air flight from Korea will touch down at 1.50 pm and then depart from Macau at 2.50 pm and return to Incheon which is close to the capital of South Korea. The new flight route will also encourage South Koreans to visit Macau, the biggest gambling hub in the world.
Macau’s casino industry has showed signs of recovery after a 26 month consecutive decline. The opening of two multi-billion dollar resorts in the Wynn Palace and the Parisian Macao in the Cotai district has helped to turn things around. However the VIP gambling market in Macau is yet to recover and South Korean casino operators continue to use junkets to lure these high rollers to their casinos.