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    Tuesday, March 05, 2024

    Mohegan set to open portion of its South Korean resort Thursday

    Front entrance of Mohegan’s Inspire integrated resort casino in Incheon, South Korea, a portion of which will open to the public Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 (photo courtesy Mohegan).
    A scene inside Inspire’s “Aurora,” a 150-meter-long digital display featuring super-large LED screens, which will open in Incheon, South Korea on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 (photo courtesy Mohegan).
    A view of Inspire’s 15,000-seat entertainment venue, part of the integrated resort casino that will open in Incheon, South Korea on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 (photo courtesy Mohegan).
    A view of “Splash Bay,” a glass-domed indoor water park that is part of Inspire’s integrated resort casino that will open in Incheon, South Korea, on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 (photo courtesy Mohegan).

    In 2019, the Mohegan Tribe’s gaming and entertainment company ― its flagship is Mohegan Sun ― extended its influence beyond the country’s northern border, assuming management of two casinos in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

    On Thursday, Mohegan will double down on international expansion, this time officially planting its flag on another continent.

    The company has announced it will debut a portion of its long-awaited Inspire integrated resort casino in Incheon, South Korea, a nearly $1.7 billion development that promises to transform Asia’s gaming landscape.

    The “soft opening” will showcase the resort’s three hotel towers, which total 1,275 rooms; a 15,000-seat arena; “Aurora,” a 150-meter-long digital display featuring giant LED screens; “Splash Bay,” a glass-domed indoor water park; a convention center; and more than 10 restaurants, including a Michael Jordan’s Steak House, a familiar Mohegan Sun brand.

    Inspire’s casino component, as well as retail outlets and other amenities, are expected to open early next year. The casino’s operation is contingent on Mohegan securing the Korean government’s approval of the resort’s hotels, Ray Pineault, Mohegan’s president and chief executive officer, said Monday in a phone interview.

    “We’re going to get started on that right away,” he said. “We always anticipated the casino license would come after other facilities were in place. We have to receive 5-star ratings on the hotels before the government will issue the license. A Korean travel association will have to review the hotels and fill out a scorecard based not only on their physical assets but also guest service.”

    More than 1,000 employees already are in place at Inspire, where the workforce ultimately will number more than 2,300, according to Pineault, who returned from his most recent visit to South Korea last week.

    “We’re adding more each day,” he said.

    A member of the Mohegan Tribe, Pineault sought to put Inspire’s opening into perspective.

    “I’m really excited for the team there and everyone here who has been involved in the project,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of effort to make it happen. It’s exciting to see it come to fruition. To be able to expand our reach halfway around the world is a significant milestone for the organization and the tribe.”

    In keeping with Korean law, only foreigners will be allowed to gamble at Inspire’s casino. Many of its patrons will come from travelers who arrive at Incheon International Airport, which is “just down the road,” Pineault said, and one of the busiest airports in the world.

    “We’ll be running shuttles,” he said. “And the many foreigners who work in South Korea and the dual passport-holders who live there will be able to gamble at Inspire. We expect Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese and Vietnamese (patrons).”

    Pineault said Mohegan is hopeful that South Korea will allow domestic gambling at some point. In the meantime, he said, residents of the country can gamble at one facility in the country where it is allowed and travel to casinos in Singapore, the Philippines and Macau, China.

    Inspire will face competition, Pineault said, particularly from nearby Paradise City, currently Korea’s largest casino, and other foreigner-only casinos in Incheon. He noted that Inspire, which is similar in size to Mohegan Sun, will dwarf its competitors.

    “We believe we will become the standard (for gaming and entertainment venues) in Korea,” Pineault said, adding that Mohegan expects Inspire to derive about 50% of its revenue from gaming.

    Inspire will be Mohegan’s eighth property. The others it either owns and/or manages are Mohegan Sun; Mohegan Pennsylvania, a racetrack casino in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City; ilani, a resort casino in Ridgefield, Wash.; Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara, both in Ontario; and Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

    Mohegan has partnered with the Soloviev Group, a New York City developer seeking to develop an entertainment complex on the east side of midtown Manhattan near the United Nations headquarters. Mohegan would develop and operate the casino portion of the development, which would include affordable housing.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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