Mohegan Sun’s partnership with KCC Corp paid off this week when the consortium was given a green light by the South Korean government to construct their Inspire Integrated Resort on Yeongjong Island. With license secured, the project is expected to break ground next year and open as soon as the first part of 2020. The development which will include a luxury hotel, entertainment and convention spaces, a K-pop arena, shopping venues, food and beverage outlets, theme park, and a 215,278 square foot casino may open in stages with the first focus being on entertainment and bolstering Korea’s thriving entertainment industry.

President of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, Bobby Soper, told Korea’s Yonhap news agency in an exclusive interview yesterday that, “We consider ourselves an entertainment-driven company. We’ll be one of the premier entertainment venues in all of Asia,” Soper said.

“Our plan is to have international celebrities, both K-pop and Western performers,” Soper said. “We want those long-standing successful brands to be able to elevate Korean brands, whether it’s food or international celebrity chef restaurants. We want to make sure that those budding high-potential Korean chefs can certainly go toe-to-toe on the international culinary stage.”

The 1.5 trillion-won (US$1.21 billion) resort will be competing for international business with two other casinos under construction in the Seoul transportation hub. Paradise Co. of  South Korea and Japan’s Sega Sammy Holdings are in cooperation to build an integrated resort that should open next year. The working name for that development is Paradise Sega Sammy.  Caesars Entertainment has also joined forces with Lippo Group of Indonesia to open a resort there in 2018, but Lippo recently announced they were not certain the development would proceed. Caesars Operating Company is currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. and the outcome of imminent hearings could bring the parent company into bankruptcy as well.

Of competition in the immediate area Soper told Yonhap, “[Inspire Integrated Resort] is close enough [to the other two resorts], so they have a certain cluster impact,” he said. “Their programming is focused on convention rooms, and our programming is focused on recreational and retail. Those two different types of programming will complement each other very well.”

South Korea currently has 17 casinos in operation with only the remote Kangwon Land Casino open to citizens. If all three Incheon casinos are built on schedule there will be 20 casinos in the country by 2020. Although analysts are predicting little impact on Macau from the casinos, even the locals-allowed Kangwon Land has seen a dramatic uptick in visitors since VIPs began to shun Macau in 2014, causing revenues there to cascade under increased government scrutiny.