Sep 9

“북항 필수 요소 복합리조트, 카지노 넘어선 문화·관광 콤플렉스”

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부산 원도심에 넓게 펼쳐진 친수공간 북항 재개발지역. 시민의 품으로 되돌아온 이곳은 아직 미완성인 까닭에 무한한 가능성을 품고 있다. 더불어 이곳은 정부가 유치를 추진 중인 2030년 부산 월드엑스포(세계박람회) 개최 무대이기도 하다. 세계인의 시선이 집중될 북항 재개발지역을 어떻게 꾸미느냐에 따라 부산의 가치는 크게 달라질 수밖에 없다. 글로벌 관광산업의 관점에서 바라보면 북항 재개발지역의 운명을 좌우할 결정적 요소가 쉽게 포착된다. 바로 복합리조트(IR)이다.

수익성 높은 카지노 시설 바탕으로 공공성 큰 관광·문화시설 함께 조성 ‘亞 대표’ 싱가포르 마리나 베이 샌즈 카지노는 일부, 공연장·미술관 등 운영 日 ‘복합리조트 추진법’ 제정 등 속도 리조트 건설 땐 내국인 760만 명 이탈 연간 누출액 2조 5840억 원 분석도

 

 

■세계는 복합리조트 전쟁 중

눈부시게 성장하는 싱가포르와 마카오에서 교훈을 얻은 세계 각국이 복합리조트 사업에 뛰어들고 있다. 아시아로 무대를 좁혀 보면 일본이 우리보다 먼저 그 필요성에 눈을 뜨고 복합리조트를 향해 급히 달려가고 있다. 일본은 2016년 이른바 ‘복합리조트 추진법’을 제정하고, 이듬해 추진본부를 출범시켰다. 아베 신조 총리가 본부장이고 스가 요시히데 관방장관이 부본부장이다. 복합리조트 조성을 범국가적 과제로 인식하고 있다는 뜻이다. 일본 정부는 오사카, 요코하마, 나가사키 등에 복합리조트 허가를 추진하고 있다. 개장 목표는 2025년께다.

부산과 가까운 러시아 블라디스크토크 인근 엔터테인먼트 특별지구에서도 복합리조트가 추진되고 있다. 필리핀은 마닐라에 이미 4곳의 복합리조트를 보유하고 있다. 베트남, 대만 등도 복합리조트 조성에 적극적이다. 이들 모두 내국인이 출입가능한 오픈 카지노가 전제다. 세계 각국이 복합리조트를 ‘황금알을 낳는 거위’로 인정하며 전향적인 태도로 돌아선 것이다. 그러나 우리는 예외다. 외국인전용 카지노만 허용하는 현행 법규로 인해 오픈 카지노형 복합리조트 진출이 불가능하다.

 

 

■안정적 수익으로 북항 관광마이스 견인

복합리조트는 현대 관광마이스 산업 핵심 인프라로 일컬어진다. 관광마이스 분야 활성화를 위해 없어선 안 되는 필수 시설이라는 뜻이다. 북항 재개발지역은 글로벌 복합리조트 자본이 먼저 눈독들이는 복합리조트 ‘적합지’이다.

부산상공회의소는 지난해 복합리조트 유치를 공식 선언했다. 내국인 도박중독 방지 방안 등을 연구해 오픈 카지노형 복합리조트 조성을 반드시 성사시키겠다는 의지를 밝혔다. 부산시도 법규의 한계를 탓하고 있지만 원론적으로는 복합리조트 파급효과를 긍정적으로 바라보고 있다.

복합리조트를 단순한 카지노산업으로 인식해선 곤란하다. 고수익 시설인 카지노를 바탕으로 공공성 높은 관광·문화시설을 함께 조성하는 복합 개발을 가능하게 만들기 때문이다. 아시아 대표적 복합리조트로 부상한 싱가포르 마리나 베이 샌즈의 경우 카지노 시설은 극히 일부에 불과하다. 그러나 리조트에 딸린 컨벤션센터, 미술관, 뮤지컬공연장, 이벤트광장, 쇼핑센터 등의 매머드급 문화·관광 콤플렉스는 ‘일부 시설’인 카지노 덕에 원활히 가동될 수 있다.

일본도 복합리조트 관련 법률에서 카지노 구역을 전체 개발면적의 3% 미만으로 제한하고 있다. 이와 함께 필수포함시설로 대형 마이스시설, 극장, 공연장, 박물관, 미술관 등 관광시설과 연면적 10만㎡ 이상 규모의 호텔을 함께 개발해야 한다고 못 박아 두고 있다.

 

복합리조트가 갖춘 다양한 관광인프라는 도박꾼보다 보통의 관광객을 훨씬 많이 끌어모은다. 싱가포르 등의 사례에서 확인했듯이 도시를 관광지로 급부상시키는 역할도 한다. 여전히 열린 공간으로 남아 있는 북항 재개발지역은 마이스 중심의 복합리조트 적격지로 평가된다.

부산이 미적거리면 벌써 팔을 걷어붙인 일본이 과실을 독차지할 수 있다는 우려가 높다. 일본 복합리조트가 개장하면 국내 내국인 이탈 수와 누출액이 연간 약 760만 명, 2조 5840억 원에 이를 것이라는 분석이 나와 있다. 국내 외국인 전용카지노 고객의 70%를 차지하는 중국인, 일본인의 상당수가 일본으로 발길을 돌릴 수도 있다. 윤태환 동의대 호텔컨벤션경영학과 교수는 “복합리조트는 카지노 고객만을 대상으로 하는 기존 카지노 시설과는 달리 일반 레저 관광객 흡인력이 높아 관련 산업 전반에 미치는 파급효과가 매우 크다”면서 “북항 재개발지역을 복합리조트를 기반으로 한 고부가가치 체류형 관광 클러스터로 정착시키면 부산의 도시 브랜드 가치도 함께 높일 수 있다”고 강조했다.

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  • The House “needs to stop the regionalism and take a leap of faith that will allow Chicago to move forward appropriately and responsibly with a casino,” State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago said. SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s efforts to get a full house of state lawmakers to agree to lighter taxes on a Chicago casino went bust on Thursday in the waning hours of the veto session. And Chicago Democrats weren’t happy. Instead, lawmakers passed a separate, watered down gambling fix bill that beefs up background checks on applicants for casino and sports wagering licenses. The legislative hiccup represents the latest delay to create a Chicago gambling mecca, while the five other municipalities granted new casinos under the legislation signed in June have already submitted developers’ applications to the Illinois Gaming Board. Ultimately, Lightfoot and her team couldn’t get enough support to pass the compromise measure — and some lawmakers wanted an extra piece of revenue for their districts. But bill sponsor State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, called the mayor a “great partner, willing to do whatever it takes” to get to the finish line, including calls to members. That also included a rare visit to the House Democratic caucus on Tuesday. And the setback doesn’t mean the big city casino won’t eventually break ground. The tax structure issue could be brought up again when lawmakers return to session in January. “While we are disappointed that a much-needed fix to the gaming bill won’t be made during this compressed veto session, the Chicago casino is still very much in the sightline thanks to the progress we’ve made with our state partners,” Lightfoot said in a statement, adding that she looks “forward to continuing our conversations about advancing the casino starting in January.” The rookie mayor still has the support of Pritzker, who is counting on revenue from the Chicago mega-casino to help fund his signature $45 billion capital projects plan. “The General Assembly made important technical changes that were needed to ensure the smooth operations of the gaming legislation, but work remains to make sure the Chicago casino opens,” Pritzker’s office said in a statement. “The governor is committed to continuing to work with the city and other stakeholders to finalize this important element.” In attempting to pass the cleanup measure, Rita said he’s working with the mayor’s office “to try to figure out what we can do to get over the goal line.” Rita later told reporters there were several “sideline issues” ? some not even gambling related ? among the House caucus, which stalled support. The cleanup measure vote came a day after the Illinois House passed Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s pension consolidation plan to help downstate fire and police pensions. And Chicago Democrats who supported that plan argued it’s time for lawmakers from across the state to help the city deal with its pension mess ? which the Chicago casino is supposed to do. “We took a leap of faith, but this body, as somebody said, needs to stop the regionalism and take a leap of faith that will allow Chicago to move forward appropriately and responsibly with a casino that will fund the projects that are going to be built all over this state,” State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said during debate of the casino cleanup measure. There is another avenue ahead of the January session. As some mayoral critics have urged, the city could put the Chicago casino license out for bid anyway ? even with the with tax structure that a state-hired consultant deemed too “onerous” for any prospective developer to break even ? and see if anyone comes to the table. But Lightfoot has said all along she knew the tax structure wouldn’t work. She signed off this week on a compromise from Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Rita which would have thrown out the original 72% effective tax rate on the casino, while also giving the developer more time to pay back a hefty “reconciliation fee.” The legislation currently in place taxes the Chicago casino along the same graduated system as Illinois’ 10 existing casinos, while slapping on an additional 33.3% privilege tax to locate in the city. The revised structure would have introduced a new graduated tax system specific to the Chicago casino with a higher overall tax rate compared to existing casinos but with a smaller percentage going to the state, and a relatively bigger chunk earmarked for the city. For example, an existing casino is taxed at 15% of its gross revenue from slot machines up to $25 million. Under the proposal, the Chicago casino would have been taxed at 22.5% of its gross revenue, with 12% of that going to the state and 10.5% going to the city for its police and firefighter pension funds. That didn’t sit well with some Republicans who viewed it as a special deal for Chicago. Most existing casino towns get a 5% cut of their casinos’ gross revenue. The amended bill that fell short Thursday also briefly held out a hope for a new horse racetrack and casino in the south suburbs, weeks after Pritzker tanked a Tinley Park racino proposal led by video gambling magnate Rick Heidner, after Heidner’s name surfaced in federal search warrants. The amendment would have opened the door to a new harness racetrack in Crete, where Balmoral Park shut down in 2015 ? and which Heidner made a failed bid to purchase out of bankruptcy. But the struggling horse racing industry did not net any legislative wins in the fall veto session. Tina Sfondeles reported from Springfield; Mitchell Armentrout reported from Chicago.
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  • Five plans have been submitted for a long-sought Waukegan casino. The city will submit a short list to the Illinois Gaming Board in late October. Helipads and posh villas. Italianate fountains and dine-in movie theaters. Saltwater pools and cavernous concert halls. And lots of slots. They’re all included in a slate of packages being offered by a handful of developers vying for the opportunity to run a newly authorized casino in Waukegan, according to documents released by the city last week. The north suburb received six formal proposals, though two of those bids are tied together. That means city officials are mulling five competing development plans for a gambling den, all at the site of the shuttered Fountain Square shopping center at Lakehurst Road and Northpoint Boulevard. Among the players who have shown their cards are the operators of the state’s most lucrative casino, a former state senator whose company poured cash into recent local elections — and a group that was booted from the race for Illinois’ last casino license a decade ago because state regulators were wary of their ties to an indicted Springfield powerbroker. Waukegan is among six locations in line for a new casino license under Illinois’ colossal gambling expansion signed into law earlier this summer by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. On top of the state’s 10 existing casinos, new ones are also in the pipeline for Rockford, Danville, Williamson County, southern Cook County and Chicago — though a consultant’s report last month threw cold water on the financial prospects of a big-city gambling den. RELATED Ditka, Bears fans, ‘casino investors’ cross Indiana border to lay wagers hours before season opener against Packers Taxes will ground Chicago casino, but taking a flier on airport slots could pay off, study finds ‘Tough’ new Illinois Gaming Board chairman faced with massive gambling expansion Waukegan officials have said they’ll pare down a short list of the city’s preferred proposals and present two or three to the Illinois Gaming Board by the end of October. That state agency has the final say on issuing a license, which will cost the winning bidder upwards of $15 million upfront. Here’s a quick rundown of the proposals: Churchill Downs-Rush Street Gaming Louisville-based corporate gambling giant Churchill Downs Inc. already owns Rivers Casino in Des Plaines in tandem with Chicago casino magnate Neil Bluhm’s Rush Street Gaming. 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Waukegan Gaming Headed by Chicago-area real-estate developers Alan Ludwig and Richard Stein, Waukegan Gaming LLC has taken the city to court, claiming the new Waukegan casino license should automatically go to them because of a development contract both sides signed in 2004, the last time Waukegan was in the running for a casino license. The Illinois Gaming Board nixed that proposal because of the group’s ties to William Cellini, who was later convicted of shaking down a Hollywood producer for a campaign contribution to disgraced ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. That casino license ended up going to Bluhm’s Rivers in Des Plaines. Now, Waukegan Gaming LLC says they’re “working with” Bluhm’s Churchill Downs-Rush Street group — and they say they only filed their two-page “separate but parallel” proposal to cover their bases as their court case against the city plays out. Full House Resorts The Las Vegas-based development corporation is looking to add Waukegan to the list of five casinos it runs in four states with “American Place.” Their whopping 402-page proposal envisions a 1,560-gaming position den complete with a sportsbook, an “ultra-luxurious collection of villas,” a gourmet restaurant “that will rival the finest restaurants in Chicago” and a helicopter pad “to expedite travel time for hotel guests seeking to bypass traffic.” Their North Point Casino could eventually max out its gaming positions to 2,000, though their heavily redacted 241-page proposal is light on numbers, including how much they would offer the city for the Fountain Square property. The plan calls for a 5,300-square-foot sportsbook, a 2-acre outdoor amphitheater, five restaurants including an upscale steakhouse and a smoking patio. A second phase of development would include a hotel, ballroom, conference center and a retail entertainment district. Potawatomi Hotel & Casino The owners of the Potawatomi in Milwaukee want to expand with a Waukegan Potawatomi Casino, a 130,000-square-foot behemoth with 1,850 gaming positions, three restaurants and a food court. Instead of building a hotel, they plan to “create strategic alliances” with existing ones. Potawatomi says they can open by December 2021 with a construction tab topping $343 million, and the completed casino eventually creating 2,599 jobs that pump nearly $394 million annually into the local economy, according to their 159-page proposal. Waukegan Development Associates LLC This company is headed by real estate broker Andrew Hochberg, who also has a stake in Tap Room Gaming — the company led by competing developer Bond, of the North Point Casino proposal. They’ve offered $7 million for the Fountain Square land to build a 38-acre casino complex with 1,380 gaming positions, two bars, several restaurants, an outdoor event space and a “scaled replica of a famous Italian fountain.” A second phase of construction would eventually incorporate a dine-in cinema, luxury hotel and a spa boasting a saltwater pool. The company’s 172-page proposal says they’ll eventually create 1,000 jobs and inject nearly $145 million into the economy.

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