Inside Asian Gaming

INSIDE ASIAN GAMING JUNE 2018 18 M OHEGAN Gaming and Entertainment CEO Mario Kontomerkos believes the Native American casino operator has two aces in the hole for Japan, especially when it comes to the so-called regional markets beyond major areas. In his presentation at last month’s Japan Gaming Congress, Kontomerkos emphasized that Japan’s regional markets resemble the remote location of MGE’s flagship Mohegan Sun integrated resort. In that rural Connecticut setting, albeit just over two hours from New York City and 90 minutes from Boston on the US east coast, MGE has created the highest-grossing casino in North America with annual net revenue exceeding US$1 billion. The IR features 1,600 hotel rooms, the 10,000 seat Mohegan Sun Arena hosting top entertainers and shows plus two MGE owned sports franchises, smaller stages, a golf course, more than 300 gaming tables, nearly 5,000 gaming machines, and dozens of dining and shopping options. “We rely on the local market to provide employees for the venue, not as customers,” Kontomerkos declared. Mohegan Sun attracts 11 million people a year, including one-third of all foreign visitors to Connecticut. Its one rival in Connecticut is Foxwoods, with revenue of around US$850 million a year at its own remote property which includes more than 2,000 hotel rooms, 250 gaming tables and 5,500 gaming machines across six casinos. Despite both operating out of the third smallest state in the United States, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods present an intriguing alternative to the large IR operators like Las Vegas Sands and MGM COVER STORY Resorts considered by many to be the leading contenders to win a Japan license, with their tribal Indian roots potentially providing the cultural sensitivity local lawmakers are looking for. Foxwoods, for example, boasts a US$200 million museum paying tribute to the history of the local Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Not that Asia will be a completely new frontier, with Mohegan currently developing Project Inspire, an IR adjacent to South Korea’s international gateway Incheon airport with an annual throughput of more than 60 million passengers. Earlier this year, MGE “amicably” bought out its Korean partner, a chemical company, to take 100% control of the project, but declined to provide further details on the deal. Inspire will be the “largest integrated resort in Northern Asia” Kontomerkos says, comprising an investment of US$5 billion over 20 years. Expected to open its US$1.6 billion first phase in 2021, Kontomerkos told the Tokyo gathering, “We will have the next influencer to drive visitors in Northern Asia,” with Korea’s largest indoor arena, its largest convention center, plus 1,000 hotel rooms and a 25,000-square meter (270,000 square foot) foreigner- only casino. Citing the millions of high-end travelers traversing Incheon’s award-winning airport, he forecast, “We will have a large database of Northern Asian visitors” that would be potential customers for Japan. On the sidelines of the Japan Gaming Congress, Kontomerkos and Foxwoods President and CEO Felix Rappaport sat down separately to discuss their respective prospects in Asia with Inside Asian Gaming . Mohegan Sun in Connecticut