Kim Jong-un Halts Casino Construction After Beijing Applies Pressure

North Korea has halted its casino plans on the order of the country’s leader following pressure from Beijing, according to a report.

Plans put on hold

According to a report from The Korea Herald, citing a report from Radio Free Asia, the construction of a hotel, which was to include a casino, was under way.

Once completed it was to be 30 storeys high; however, following disapproval from China’s capital, Kim Jong-un has stopped the construction, which is currently about 20 storeys high. The incomplete building is located in the city of Sinuiju, North Pyongang Province.

Unnamed Chinese sources are reported to have said to Radio Free Asia: “The main reason for halting the casino project is that it has been deemed that the project is a major hindrance to obtaining investment from other countries, particularly China. Kim appears to have made the decision upon hearing that the Chinese government is negative about North Korea’s casino project.”

China’s domestic gambling market is heavily regulated, with only lotteries allowed to operate legally. Sports betting and horse racing are banned in the province of Hainan.

Also of note is the fact that Radio Free Asia highlighted that Kim also gave orders to cease “all troublesome casino projects”. If the Sinuiju hotel project is one such troublesome project, the report notes that it may continue in the future; however, it won’t have a casino.

Kim has recently shown interest in the casino business. In June, it was reported that the North Korean leader was turning to the US for help on paying for a high-end casino in the country following a blossoming relationship with US President Donald Trump. North Korea already has foreign-only casinos located in it.

In July, this was further commented on by Sheldon Adelson, the founder, chair, and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, a casino and resort company based in Nevada. In a report from Quartz, Adelson made reference to North Korea’s potential, saying that he hoped to return to the country to open one of his casinos.

Why gamble in North Korea?

At present, gambling is prohibited to citizens of North Korea, yet it’s open to tourists who are permitted to gamble on a regular basis.

However, one has to question, why would anyone want to gamble in North Korea considering its alleged checkered history?

According to reports, including those from Amnesty International, up to 120,000 people continue to be contained in four known political prison camps, where conditions are far short of international standards. Many have been subject to forced labour, torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

Not only that, but in 2017 and 2018, the country has carried out several medium and long-range missile tests. Prior to somewhat friendly exchanges between Trump and Kim, tensions between the two countries reached a new level of escalation this year.

Questions also remain over the killing of Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, in Malaysia in February, and whether there was any involvement by North Korean state agents.

While North Korea doesn’t have the best track record towards its people, that isn’t stopping it from becoming a haven for gamblers. China, for instance, has turned to the country in a bid to get around gambling laws in the country.

However, for now, it seems any plans for a casino in North Korea will remain on hold for the time being. It remains to be seen whether the construction of the hotel will receive a green light in the near future.

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