Skip to main content

Would North Korea Become the New Asian Gambling Hotspot by 2020?

When it comes to the exploration of new markets around the globe and setting foot on uncharted land, many casino operators with international influence are willing to take the risk and become the first ones to branch out in a given country, reserving the best spots. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been one of the most discussed regions due to the complicated political situation in the past several months, but following the widely publicized Trump-Kim Summit, taking place on 12th June in Singapore, a conversation of potential gambling operation has commenced.

Just like every other business, the gambling one is able to provide the community with the benefits coming from generating revenue and the taxes coming with them. This usually results in a significant economic boost on a local level as the field witnesses reinvestment and funding of long-anticipated projects. There is also the factor of tourists willing to travel to the said country and explore its entertainment offerings, as well as signature landmarks.

At the moment there are two casino venues in operation in North Korea which is located in the basement of the well-known Yanggakdo Hotel, built on Yanggak Island. The gambling facility goes by the name of Casino Pyongyang and for the time being, it provides its gaming offerings to tourists only. The second casino venue currently in operation is situated on the premises of the five-star Emperor Hotel and Casino and is considered to be the more popular one since it is located in the Rason Special Economic Zone, developing with the help of foreign investment.

Ever since the 1990s the region has opened its doors for international investors to develop. The region has a strategic location, as it is in the vicinity of both northeast China and Russia, giving the opportunity to tourists coming from those countries to see what is up for grabs at the said casino venue. It launched operation in 1999, introducing a gaming floor amounting to some 120,000 square meters which are not available to North Koreans. Illegal participation in gambling activities could send locals to one of the labor camps featuring strict measures.

Even though casino venues operate in a very regulated manner there have been previous instances of significant damage inflicted on players falling prey to problem gambling tendencies. Emperor Casino witnessed a controversial situation involving the former head of the Yanbian Traffic and Transport Office, Cai Haowen, who succeeded in making a total of 27 trips to the said casino venue, many of them inflicting a serious harm on his financial state. The significant thing is that the said US$425,000 were public money not supposed to be gambled away.

North Korea Willing to Capitalize on Gambling

This lead to the closing of the casino location in 2004 after a crackdown by the Chinese government. Several years after that unpleasant situation the casino venue launched operation once again in 2007 under the condition that Chinese officials or members of the party should be prohibited from participating in gaming activities.

Due to its location close to South Korea, China, Russia and the entire Asia Pacific region which is currently performing excellently when it comes to gambling offerings, North Korea could make an attempt to make the best of the situation and capitalize on gambling offerings. China is targeted as a potential primary source of casino patrons, as they could prefer it to traveling to gaming hub Macau. Players are expected to find the new gambling facility a more attractive one, especially if it comes as a part of an integrated resort, providing them with both gaming and non-gaming offerings.

The proposed region for a potential casino resort was in the Wonsan-Kalma coastal region, establishing a zone which would potentially witness a ski resort and all-encompassing options for the guests. According to the estimations, this venture has the capacity to bring as much as $50 million to the country and significantly boost the local economy.

South Korea is also another potential target since locals there are not allowed to gamble at their own casino venues and they could utilize the neighboring opportunities. Once the general political environment between the two countries is settled, this could be a winning opportunity for both countries. Most of the casino locations scattered across South Korea are not meant to welcome locals but instead are devoting their efforts and gambling offerings exclusively to foreigners.

Out of the 18 casino facilities which are in operation at the moment, only the well-known Kangwon Land Casino & Hotel allows local players to enter the premises and participate in casino activities. Japan has been eyed as a potential source of gambling patrons willing to give their luck a try at the proposed new casino location. Since the Japanese gambling industry is still anticipating its start of operation there are still many questions remaining.

It could be recalled that the Diet recently passed a bill establishing the rules of its future gambling field following a casino ban lift in 2016. Locals will have the right to enter a casino venue maximum ten times per month and there would be an entrance fee amounting to some ¥6,000.

In this sense, if the conditions provided by the future North Korean casino locations are more favorable for the Japanese players, they could easily make their way and utilize its gaming potential. For the time being, the plan proposed by North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un states that the casino-liberal zone should be finished by 15th April next year, coinciding with Kim II Sung’s birthday.

According to recently issued information, Sheldon Adelson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp. is eyeing the opportunity of exploring the North Korean future gambling potential. The upcoming months are set to witness more development on the topic, which would be closely followed by CasinoGamesPro’s team.

 Author: Harrison Young

Harrison Young is an experienced writer, who started his career almost 8 years ago. Prior to joining our team at CasinoGamesPro, he worked as an editor for a small magazine.