Laguna Lăng Cô Facebook / Hard Rock International hopes to build a casino-resort property at Laguna Lăng Cô, the first and largest fully integrated world-class hospitality development in Vietnam.

Kristin Butler

Tribes Go Global: From South Korea to Vietnam, Native Casinos Are Looking Overseas to Create Destination Resorts

Mohegan Sun plans to begin building Inspire Integrated Resort in South Korea by year end, Hard Rock confirms interest in Vietnam.

Well-established U.S. tribal casino brands are spending several billion dollars, or are prepared to invest billions, to build multi-faceted casino resorts in overseas markets. As Mohegan Gaming & Entertainmentprepares to break ground in South Korea, Hard Rock International sets its sights on a beachfront resort community on the central coast of Vietnam. The Seminole Tribe of Florida assumed global ownership of the Hard Rock empire last year. Native casinos are particularly turning to Asia due to its high traffic and rise in the number of VIP gamblers.

Mohegan Gaming plans to break ground on Project Inspire in 2017

The operators of Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun intend to break ground in South Korea by end of this year. All-in, it’s a 20-year build-out plan for the estimated $5 billion Inspire Integrated Resort in South Korea, adjacent to Incheon International Airport. Yet phase one, a roughly $1.6 billion investment, is expected to be completed within three to four years. Initial plans call for a 5-star luxury, three-tower hotel complex featuring more than 1,300 guestrooms and suites. Beyond the hotel and 215,000-square-foot casino with 1,500 slot machines and as many as 250 gaming tables, the resort will feature an indoor-outdoor amusement park by Paramount Studios.

Situated next to one of the world’s busiest airports, Inspire Integrated Resort will likely draw droves of international tourists. The casino side is only open for business to non-Koreans. Korean nationals are not permitted to gamble in the country, aside from the remote Kangwon Land Casino. That said, Koreans can partake in the resort’s non-gaming attractions: 2,000 square feet of retail, food, art, and music entertainment, reported World Casino Directory. The resort will reflect both South Korean and Native American culture, according to some reports.

The Inspire Resort is a joint venture of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE)—formerly Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, the Incheon International Airport Corp., and South Korean chemicals giant KCC Corp, which maintains a 25 percent share of the partnership. Of all the pitches to open a casino in Incheon, only Inspire met the financial requirement to put down a US$50 million deposit, and presented a nice blend of gaming and non-gaming features, Forbes reported.

To reflect its growing domestic and international portfolio, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority rebranded as MGE in early 2017. Since opening the doors to Mohegan Sun, its flagship property in Uncasville, Connecticut, in 1996, the brand has expanded with sister properties: Mohegan Sun Pocono in Pennsylvania, the Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, the Ilani Resort in Washington State (in partnership with the Cowlitz Tribe), Paragon Casino Resort in Louisiana (in partnership with the Tunica-Biloxi Gaming Authority), and now Project Inspire, soon ready for development in South Korea. In early 2016, the operators of Mohegan Sun received licensing from the South Korean government to build and develop this “first-of-its-kind” casino adjacent to the largest airport in South Korea, the primary airport serving the Seoul Capital Area.

Hard Rock hones in on Laguna Lăng Cô beach resort, Vietnam

The Seminole-owned Hard Rock International hopes to develop a casino resort at the Laguna Lăng Cô beach resort in Vietnam’s Thua Thien Hue province, reported GGRAsia. Ideally situated on the central Vietnam coast, Laguna Lăng Cô currently offers both the rustic charms of nearby UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as a plethora of services and facilities at the area’s resorts, ranging from sports activities to award-winning signature spa treatments.

If the Vietnam government approves Hard Rock International’s casino license, the company is ready to begin construction immediately. “We have finished all the site studies and completed all project financing,” Daniel Cheng, Hard Rock’s Senior Vice President for casino business development in Asia, told GGRAsia. “All we are waiting is for the [Vietnam] national government to issue the casino license and we are ready to put spades on the ground immediately,” he added.

Hard Rock is among a short list of suitors looking to build at the Laguna Lăng Cô project on Vietnam’s serene Eastern Sea coast, according to Cheng. The Laguna Lăng Cô destination, the first and largest world-class integrated resort in Vietnam, debuted in April 2013. The holiday and second-home development, located in a unique crescent bay framed by a three-kilometer beach offering privacy and unparalleled exclusivity, includes Banyan Tree and Angsana branded hotels and spas, an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Sir Nick Faldo, private villas and residences available for sale, convention facilities, and a plethora of recreational activities for guests of all ages. Laguna Lăng Cô is located within an hour’s drive from the airports of both Da Nang and Hue. Now, Laguna Lăng Cô is considering applicants to build an integrated resort.

Foxwoods Has Hinted at Potential for International Expansion

While MGE and Hard Rock International’s plans are public, several U.S.-based tribes are keeping their eyes on the overseas’ markets. Foxwoods, for instance, is ready to make a move when the place and time are right. “Internationally, I can’t speak specifically, because we don’t have a signed deal, but we’re looking at opportunities—even overseas if an opportunity presents itself,” Felix Rappaport, Foxwoods’ president and CEO, told ICMN in March.

Foxwoods has a 25-year history. There are lots of great brands in this industry, but Foxwoods is very well known,” Rappaport underscored. “There are very few places that are anywhere near as big as this place. We have experienced executives. We have a very experienced gaming commission, so procedurally, we’re very tight, and very conservative, and, I think, we’re the kind of organization that any state or country would want.”

Rappaport also pointed out that Foxwoods maintains strong international connections. For instance, on behalf of Foxwoods, Rappaport is often invited to speak at overseas industry-focused conferences, like ICE Totally Gaming in London, and Foxwoods partnered with Austria-based NOVOMATIC to create its social i-gaming experience, FoxwoodsONLINE.