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    Wednesday, May 22, 2024

    A grand opening for the Mohegans’ Inspire resort in South Korea

    A grand opening celebration was held inside the Inspire Arena on Tuesday as the Mohegan Tribe celebrated the opening of its nearly $1.7 billion integrated resort, in Incheon, South Korea. (Photo courtesy of Mohegan Tribe)
    A grand opening celebration was held Tuesday as the Mohegan Tribe celebrated the opening of Inspire, its nearly $1.7 billion integrated resort, in Incheon, South Korea. (Photo courtesy of Mohegan Tribe)
    The Mohegan traditional drumming team "The Unity of Nations" performed an “Honor Song” at the Mohegan Inspire grand opening celebration on March 5, celebrating the meeting and unity of Mohegan and Korean cultures. (Photo courtesy of Mohegan Tribe)

    Almost 30 years to the day after gaining federal recognition as an Indian tribe, the Mohegans on Tuesday celebrated the opening of Inspire, their nearly $1.7 billion integrated resort, in Incheon, South Korea.

    In a phone interview from Incheon, James Gessner Jr., the Mohegan chairman, described the day’s events, which included a late-afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by two members of President Joe Biden’s administration ― Philip Goldberg, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and U.S. Treasurer Lynn Malerba, the Mohegans’ ceremonial chief ― South Korean government officials, the mayor of Incheon and other dignitaries.

    Han Duck-soo, the prime minister of South Korea, was meeting Tuesday with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and was unable to attend Inspire’s grand opening, Gessner said.

    The tribe live-streamed the ribbon cutting on its Facebook page and on YouTube.

    “This is a special day for Mohegan, one of the biggest days in our history,” Gessner said by phone. “To open a project in another country that brings together two cultures, two countries. ... I couldn’t be prouder.”

    “We did what we said we were going to do,” he added. “It’s just a major achievement.”

    Gessner said about 50 tribal members and gaming executives traveled to South Korea over the weekend to participate in Tuesday’s activities. The seven members of the Mohegan Tribal Council made the trip as did four members of the Council of Elders and other members of the Unity of Nations, a tribal drum group that performed at the ceremony.

    Ray Pineault, the Mohegan president and chief executive officer, was among the gaming executives in attendance.

    Korean Standard Time is 14 hours later than Eastern Standard Time.

    While delivering prepared remarks before the ribbon cutting, Gessner referenced South Korean currency in applauding his tribe’s “over two-trillion won investment” in Inspire.

    “This is a momentous occasion for Mohegan, marking both a historic partnership for our tribe and a new echelon for our system of premier integrated resorts around the world,” he said. “Our mission has always been to push the boundaries of entertainment and hospitality, and with Mohegan Inspire, we are setting a new benchmark.”

    Gessner said the project has created nearly 3,000 jobs “and promises to create many more as we grow.”

    The ribbon cutting was followed in the evening by a formal dinner in an Inspire ballroom.

    Some of Inspire’s features debuted in a “soft” opening last November, including three hotel towers totaling 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; and a convention center.

    Early last month, once the South Korean government had granted the Inspire hotels its highest rating, Mohegan, the tribe’s gaming and entertainment company, opened the resort’s foreigners-only casino. Other amenities, including an outdoor entertainment park, are scheduled to open later this year.

    The Inspire casino, South Korea’s largest foreigners-only casino, has 150 table games, 390 slot machines and a 160-seat electronic table games stadium on two floors. South Korean residents are prohibited from entering the passport-controlled gaming area.

    According to Gessner, only about 20% of Inspire is devoted to gaming, meaning locals have access to the other 80% of the resort, which includes entertainment, dining and retail options.

    In connection with the grand opening, K-pop stars PSY and Taeyang performed Saturday in the Inspire arena. American pop rock band Maroon 5 will perform there this weekend.

    The 2,300-member Mohegan Tribe was granted federal recognition on March 7, 1994, a status that enabled it to pursue casino development. It opened Mohegan Sun two years later, and it has since developed, owned and/or managed casino resorts in the United States, Canada and, now, South Korea.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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