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Mohegan Sun eyes US$5 bln resort project in S. Korea

According to Yonhap News,

(SEOUL=Yonhap News) The president of Mohegan Sun, a U.S. regional tribal casino operator, said South Korea's main gateway provides the perfect chance to build its first integrated resort outside North America to target the expanding Asian gaming market.


Mohegan Sun has submitted a $5 billion bid to build an integrated resort with a foreigner-only casino on Yeongjong Island, a transportation hub located west of Seoul. The South Korean government is set to hand out two more casino licenses within this year to attract investment and boost tourism.

The Connecticut-based casino and resort operator is among 34 local and international companies vying for the deal in hopes of using Korea's geographical proximity to lure deep-pocketed Chinese rollers.

"While we have previously looked at various development opportunities outside of North America, this is the first opportunity we felt compelling enough to pursue," Bobby Soper, the president of Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said in a written interview with Yonhap News Agency.

Yeongjong Island spanning some 70 square kilometers is located less than an hour by express subway from Seoul, and for northern Chinese cities, it is closer than Macau, a gambling paradise.

It is widely believed that Yeongjong is sure to have at least one resort, while it is yet to be known whether it can have another in addition to the two casino complexes to be built in the coming years.

Soper said the island has great potential to become a major tourism attraction in Asia once world-class resorts are built in the area to encourage passengers to stay there and have fun.

"It is not only convenient to what will arguably be the largest airport passenger terminal in the world, (and) it is also expandable in several phases that will take full advantage" of developable land and other scenic areas, he said.

Incheon International Airport handles more than 45 million visitors annually and is currently building additional airport to expand the current venue.

As South Korea has seen a large influx of tourists from China in recent years, the new resort is aimed at drawing customers from populated Northern China as well as Japan and Southeast Asia, he said.

"Asia, especially China, is experiencing a greater emergence of the middle class and a new generation of consumers with money to spend on entertainment," Soper said. "We have a very largest Asian clientele at the Mohegan Sun enterprise and we understand such guests culturally and behaviorally."

Mohegan's proposal includes a multi-phase development starting with a $1.6 billion integrated resort near the airport, which will include casino, entertainment, shopping, dining places as well as a luxury hotel, a theme park and convention venues.

Among the bidders, six companies picked a site near the Incheon airport, including Grand Leisure Korea, a subsidiary of state-run Korea Tourism Organization; Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, a Hong Kong-based jewelry chain; China's Macrolink Group; and Bloomberry Resorts of the Philippines.

Soper said his company has been in talks with other local partners to form a consortium in a bid to spice up its proposal, without providing further details citing the ongoing selection process.

While other companies expressed hope for open casinos that also accept locals, Soper said Mohegan will put more focus on non-gaming elements through close collaboration with its U.S. resorts famous for entertainment contents and dining places.

"In fact, we really consider ourselves as an entertainment company rather than a gaming company," the president said. "We can bring K-pop to a new level as well by working the synergies between Korea and our current flagship property in Connecticut."

There are 17 casinos in Korea with 16 open to foreigners. Kangwon Land, located in a remote former mining town, is the only place where Koreans can legally gamble.

Copyrights Yonhap News. All Rights Reserved.

Source Text

Source: Yonhap News (Oct. 23, 2015)

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