Mohegan Gaming Pushes Boundaries of Empire

Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment has expanded its reach well beyond the successful casino resort in Connecticut. The tribal company operates casinos in Pennsylvania, Atlantic City, Louisiana, Washington state and Las Vegas, and has an international footprint in Canada, South Korea and now near Athens, Greece with its Inspire concept (l.).

Mohegan Gaming Pushes Boundaries of Empire

In the 24 years since the opening of the flagship Mohegan Sun, Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment has relied on the approach of the Mohegan Tribal Council to push beyond the boundaries of Connecticut. Taking the long view to expansion, Mohegan Gaming has added its name and sensibilities to casinos in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Washington state and Atlantic City, and most recently to the former Hard Rock in Las Vegas, rebranded as a Virgin Hotel.

And now the footprint has escaped the boundaries of the U.S. to Greece, Canada and South Korea.

One of the hallmarks of the approach is to build long-term relationships with the communities it enters, according to the Hartford Business Journal. For Mohegan Sun, for example, MGE spent $35 million to improve highway infrastructure, and $13 million to upgrade the regional water system and the fire/emergency medical response system that serves the larger Montville community.

Here’s a look at Mohegan Gaming’s recent successes around the world.

A long and disputed process came to an end in Greece in October when MGE edged out Hard Rock International and the Seminole Tribe of Florida for the rights to develop a massive resort on a decommissioned airport site near Athens.

It could take another year before MGE’s construction partner—GEK TERNA—obtains the permits to build a $9 billion project to feature 1,250 hotel rooms, 40 restaurants, retail shopping, a 15,000-seat arena, golf course, entertainment complex and casino space for 1,500 slot machines and 250 table games. MGE’s share of the cost will be around $1 billion.

MGE’s first international project involved a deal awarded in 2016 to build an integrated resort at the Inchon International Airport in South Korea, one of the busiest in the world. Mohegan Gaming agreed to invest at least $5 billion for a multi-phase project which will include three hotel towers and twin casinos. Ground was broken in 2019 but development slowed down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

South Korean media, however, say MGE is facing difficulties in raising capital in this climate.

MGE has confirmed to the Inchon Free Economic Zone Authority that it will push on with a $200 million investment in what is called Inspire Korea. The funding will allow construction to get back on track, according to Inside Asian Gaming.

The $1.6 billion construction cost relies on $300 million from Mohegan and $900 million from a consortium of Korean institutions, another $200 million for infrastructure and improvements by Inchon International Airport Corp. and $200 million in loans.

When complete, Phase 1 of Inspire Korea will feature a large casino, a 15,000-seat arena, an indoor climate-controlled dome with a pool and rides, dining and retail, a conference and convention space, and 1,250 hotel rooms.

“I am grateful for Inspire making such a bold decision,” said IFEZ Commissioner Lee Won Jae. “It is a great gift to IFEZ Entertainment World, especially in such a time that the entire tourism industry is suffering from the Covid-19 crisis.”

Inspire Korea is due to open in 2022.

In the summer of 2019, MGE took over management of Fallsview Casino Resort overlooking the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. But the Ontario government continues to block the reopening of the casino, and the border remains closed to travel in either direction.

In addition to the flagship Mohegan Sun, MGE also operates Mohegan Sun-Pocono in Pennsylvania; Paragon Casino Resort in Louisiana; ilani Casino in Washington state; and Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Despite expansion on multiple fronts, MGE reports stagnant revenues in recent years, due in part to competition. In April, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded MGE debt to a highly speculative “Caa2” after missing a $19.7-million debt payment.