SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea selected a consortium led by U.S. casino operator Mohegan Sun as the winner of an integrated resort project, the tourism ministry said Friday, allowing one more casino on the western gateway island of Yeongjong.
Mohegan’s bid with South Korean chemicals maker KCC Corp. envisions US$1.6 billion investment to build a casino, a luxury hotel and shopping areas, as well as a K-pop entertainment arena and convention venues, on the island, west of Seoul, by 2020.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said Mohegan’s integrated resort will help boost the nation’s tourism industry by adding one more casino on the island in addition to two other casino resorts currently under construction.
“We will closely monitor the project to help support the (Mohegan consortium) in building a world-class integrated resort,” the ministry said. “It is expected to boost the competitiveness of the South Korean tourism industry with various tourism infrastructure, such as a K-pop arena, a theme park and a convention center.”
The western island, which houses Incheon International Airport, is situated less than an hour by express subway from Seoul. For northern Chinese cities, it is closer than Macau, a gambling paradise.
For the Connecticut-based operator, it would be the first casino resort it builds outside North America, targeting the Asian gaming marketa.
Mohegan officials say their competitive advantage lies in non-gaming businesses such as entertainment, shopping and restaurants, vowing to contribute to tourism with world-class entertainment events and shopping.
“We consider ourselves an entertainment-driven company. Our plan is to have international celebrities, both K-pop and Western performers,” Bobby Soper, Mohegan Sun CEO, told Yonhap News after winning the bid.
“This resort in many regards will be an incubator for elevating Korean culture” by having renowned Korean fashion brands and restaurants next door to international brands and diners, he said.
Soper said his resort will create a “cluster effect” along with two other resorts set to open near the airport by complementing each other with differing focuses on business.
The winner should build its resorts within four years after receiving a casino license, which would increase the number of casinos in the nation to 20 by 2020.
South Korea has 17 casinos with only one open to locals. Most of the current casinos are far smaller than those in Macau and Las Vegas, the world’s two biggest casino markets.
The government last year announced a plan to give at least two casino licenses to boost tourism and foreign investment, but it chose only one as China’s anti-corruption drive has dented market sentiment.
Casino operators around Asia have been aggressively courting wealthy Chinese clients, often through junket agents on the mainland, but the VIP gaming section was heavily dented by the recent crackdown.