The Winter Olympics began in Pyeongchang, South Korea in early February and much has been made of the geo-political and diplomatic significance of the games, particularly the combined Korean ice hockey team. But the situation on the Korean peninsula has already had a detrimental effect on South Korea’s gambling sector.
In response to the testing of missiles by North Korea, South Korea installed the USA’s THAAD anti-missile system. This, in turn, provoked a response from China, one element of which was the restriction of tourist groups visiting South Korea.
The result has been dramatic. In 2016 there were 8 million Chinese visitors to South Korea. In 2017 there were just 4.1 million, a fall of 48%.
2017 was meant to mark a new stage in South Korea’s casino sector, with the opening of new venues and resorts. South Koreans are banned from all but one of South Korea’s casinos and the new venues were hoping that Chinese tourists would be their main client base. But geo-political events have, so far, prevented that.
The casinos will hope that the Winter Olympics can be a catalyst to improved relations between the powers in the region.