Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) last week officially withdrew its involvement in a more than $1 billion integrated resort casino project in Athens, Greece.
MGE, the gaming entity owned by the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut, says it will instead devote all of its international expansion efforts to South Korea. INSPIRE South Korea is a proposed $1.6 billion resort concept that is under construction adjacent to Incheon International Airport.
“MGE has conducted a comprehensive review of its operations and future commitments against the new backdrop created by the COVID-19 global pandemic and concluded that we would not continue to pursue the concession rights for the Athens Project,” an MGE statement explained.
We are focused on the large undertaking at INSPIRE Korea, which will consume the next few years. While we know this is a disappointment to many, it is the right decision for our company and its stakeholders,” the release added.
MGE sold its stake in the project to its local partner in Greece GEK Terna. Mohegan Gaming announced in September that it was folding on the Athens undertaking, but the sale makes it official.
Mohegan beat out US tribal gaming rival Hard Rock International, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, for the Athens project. Hard Rock is reportedly mulling a reentry in Greece following MGE’s exit.
South Korea Concentration
Mohegan Gaming first announced its South Korea intentions back in April of 2015. The casino opportunity came by way of the South Korean government’s plan to transform the major air hub into a leisure, entertainment, and business destination.
Almost seven years later, work at INSPIRE remains years from completion. Numerous reasons have been cited for the delays.
MGE explained that the process of obtaining necessary building and land-use permits from the local and state governments was a difficult and lengthy process. Political tensions between the Koreas also slowed construction, as the North Korean regime caused much uncertainty in the region by regularly testing rocket missiles in 2017 and 2018.
COVID-19 only further delayed INSPIRE. But now, MGE says, it’s full-steam ahead.
The current INSPIRE blueprint includes 1,200 hotel rooms, suites, and villas, convention and meeting space capable of accommodating large events, a 15,000-seat multi-purpose arena, dozens of restaurants and bars offering an array of cuisine, high-end retail shopping, and a casino floor with 700 slot machines and 150 table games.
Timeline for Opening
Mohegan Gaming is hoping to open INSPIRE, originally set for 2022, in late 2023. MGE said the South Korean government recently approved of the company’s latest itinerary to commence operations.
We are thrilled to hear the news of the awaited business plan change approval from the government,” said Andrew Billany, CEO of INSPIRE. “We plan to normalize the resort construction shortly.”
Billany said the new opening target of 2023 is the result of COVID-19 impeding construction, and “realistic and practical shifts in the tourism and hospitality industry.”
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