Kim Ju-sung, Yonhap / AP
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 | 12:14 p.m.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said a consortium of Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment and Indonesia's Lippo conglomerate has received a preliminary license to build a casino-resort near the country's largest airport, stepping up competition among Asian countries to lure Chinese tourists.
The Indonesian-U.S. consortium plans to spend $696 million to open a casino town in Incheon in 2018, South Korea's culture ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
It is the first South Korean casino license given to foreign investors, though a final approval is pending.
It will become South Korea's largest casino serving exclusively foreigners and boost the tourism industry and tax revenues, according to the ministry that oversees culture, sports and tourism.
The only place in South Korea where gambling is legal for residents is the Kangwon Land casino in Gangwon province east of Seoul, which was opened to help revive a former coal-mining town.
The ministry will review in January 2018 whether the Lippo-Caesars consortium's investment is carried out as planned before giving a final casino license. The launch of the resort is expected three months later.
The Lippo-Caesars development will be located on Yeongjong island, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Incheon International Airport on the same island and about 40 kilometers from downtown Seoul.
The resort area will also include a five star hotel, serviced residences, a theater, a convention center and other commercial facilities, according to the consortium's proposal submitted to the government.