Mohegans Head to South Korea

In the United States, the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority has seen several expansion attempts go down in defeat. Now the gaming arm of the Mohegan tribe has announced plans to build a casino resort in South Korea at the huge international airport at Incheon (l.). But it isn’t the first time the tribe has examined expansion opportunities in Asia.

MTGA may have other plans in Asia

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which runs one of the largest casino resorts in the United States, has announced plans to partner with the Incheon International Airport Corp. to develop and operate an integrated resort complex in South Korea.

The proposed complex would include a 1,000-room hotel with two towers; an amusement park; a private jet terminal; a 20,000-capacity performance arena; a retail corridor; 20 restaurants; and a spa, among other amenities. They all would located at the world’s eighth largest airport, referred to as the gateway to Seoul. The facility serves 45 million customers a year.

The plan also includes a 18,500-square-meter (199,132-square-foot) casino with 250 table games and 1,500 slot machines. Like other gaming halls in South Korea, it would serve foreigners only. Of the country’s 17 casinos, only one permits locals to enter and play. But sources tell GGB News that discussions are under way in the Korean government to open up the “foreigners’ only” casinos to locals, most likely with the Singapore model of daily or annual entrance fees.

Announced by both partners last week, the project would be located on 800 acres owned by the airport, dwarfing the 544-acre Mohegan reservation in Connecticut. It is the tribe’s first venture outside the U.S., where it has seen its expansion plans thwarted in New York, Massachusetts and Philadelphia. The MTGA owns and operates Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and manages Resorts Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“We look forward to extending the unique Mohegan Sun brand, focused on unparalleled hospitality and guest experience, to Korea and providing a new, global customer base at a one-of-a kind, must-visit destination,” said Bobby Soper, president of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, in a statement.

“This project is an important step in Incheon Airport’s continued efforts to become a global mega-hub airport,” added Park Wan-su, CEO of IIAC. “It was critical to identify the right partner for this historic development and Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority’s performance track record as a developer, operator and ability to attract world-class entertainers speaks for itself.”

The development team also includes Miura Holdings Asia, described as an investor in gaming, hotel and food and beverage in the U.S. and Asia.

The authority still needs to be approved for a gaming license by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Reuters reports that Mohegan Sun would spend about $1.6 billion on the first phase of development, which could be complete by 2020. The complete resort complex would not be finished until 2040.

The South Korean government may license two operators by the end of 2015. Also in the running: Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd. of Hong Kong, which has proposed a $2.6 billion resort near Incheon Airport; and Philippines-based Bloomberry Resorts Corp., which plans a $1 billion casino complex.

According to the Korea Economic Daily, Mohegan Sun may not stop in Incheon. The company has been reportedly linked to a possible casino resort on Yeongjong Island, a special economic zone near to Incheon airport. Its partner there is said to South Korean casino operator Grand Korea Leisure Co Ltd., an affiliate of the Korea Tourism Organization. Mohegan Sun executives have been visiting Asia for more than five years eyeing expansion opportunities for their experienced operating team.