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South Korea's Mohegan Inspire Gains Ground as China-Based Casino Operator Loses License

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The Mohegan Inspire Entertainment Resort in South Korea won't have to worry about additional competition, other than Paradise City, for years. A casino resort project in the Incheon Free Economic Zone in the country has encountered setbacks in its development.

No Progress, No License

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in South Korea confirmed to media outlet GGRAsia that China-based R&F Korea (RFKR), the promoter of the foreigner-only casino scheme at Incheon, had applied for an extension on December 29. As a result, it has failed to secure a 12-month extension for its first-phase opening deadline.However, the ministry stated that RFKR's casino business permission has been officially invalidated, leaving the project's future uncertain.

Regarding the situation, the ministry refrained from providing further details, except to mention that RFKR would have a 90-day window to appeal against the decision. This recent development marks a significant setback for the casino project, which has faced challenges in meeting its deadlines since 2018.

Initially partnered with Caesars Entertainment Corp, the project saw its timeline for launch modified multiple times before Caesars' disposal of its South Korea investment in early 2021. RFKR, in response to the fourth deadline modification, had pledged to resume construction by July 2023. However, this commitment was not met, with only approximately 25% of the project developed thus far.

Safe From Poaching, For Now

Yeongjong Island, where the project is located, lies near Incheon International Airport, making it an attractive location for tourism and entertainment ventures. Despite its proximity to successful ventures like Mohegan Inspire Entertainment Resort, operated by Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, and Paradise City, RFKR's project has faced significant hurdles in its development.

The Mohegan Inspire successfully launched its casino last month following a late November launch for non-gaming activities. Meanwhile, Paradise City, a venture between Paradise Co Ltd and Sega Sammy Holdings Inc, has been running strong since 2017.

While the Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority reports that approximately a quarter of the RFKR project has been developed, construction work has been halted since 2020. The fate of the stalled casino resort project remains uncertain as RFKR contemplates its next steps in light of the ministry's decision. It has not yet commented publicly on the license revocation or its future.

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