UPDATE 1-Paradise seeks Chinese punters with $1.7 bln Korea resort

Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:01am EDT

* Paradise Co teams up with Sega Sammy for $1.7 bln South Korea casino resort

* Resort will be one of biggest in South Korea

* South Korea attracting interest of major casino operators

* Chinese tourist numbers on the rise; casino operators attract punters

HONG KONG/SEOUL, Oct 22 (Reuters) - One of South Korea's biggest gaming firms Paradise Co Ltd is building a $1.7 billion casino resort in the coastal city of Incheon to lure the rising number of Chinese gamblers flocking to the country.

Paradise, one of two companies that dominate Korea's foreigner-only casino market, said on Tuesday it was teaming up with Japanese gaming firm Sega Sammy Holdings Inc for the project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2017 and will be located minutes away from Seoul's international airport.

The resort would be one of the biggest in South Korea, which is attracting the attention of major casino operators like Las Vegas Sands Corp and Caesars Entertainment Corp at a time when several other Asian nations are betting on casinos to boost the number of wealthy Japanese and Chinese visitors as well as their economies.

The new Incheon resort, dubbed Paradise City, expects to attract 160,000 visitors a day, of which two-thirds are likely to be Chinese, the head of the project, Choi Jong-hwan, said in a statement.

Paradise shares closed up 3.6 percent in Seoul compared to a 3.1 percent gain in the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI).

Last week, Sands CEO Sheldon Alderson said his company was looking into opportunities in South Korea.

Japan's Universal Entertainment Corporation and a consortium of Caesars and Lippo Ltd had also applied for licences to build casinos in Incheon, but the government rejected their bids in June without giving a reason.

South Korea allows its citizens to gamble at only one of the 16 or so casinos operating in the country.

Paradise and local competitor Grand Korea Leisure are the biggest players in the foreigner-only domestic casino market and both firms target Chinese high-rollers from abroad. Paradise also collaborates with Macau junket operator Suncity to attract punters.

The number of Chinese tourists to South Korea jumped nearly 50 percent year-on-year in the first nine months of 2013, the official Yonhap news agency said on Tuesday.