Everything seemed to be looking good for two new casino resort projects to come to South Korea, but then COVID-19 came in and ruined everything. Now, one of the projects, previously led by Caesars Entertainment, is coming back to life after its backers have found the money they need to fire up the construction equipment. If everything goes well, construction might restart in October.
Midan City Comes Back to Life
Development of the two projects in Midan City, one led by Caesars and the other by Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment (MGE), had to be put on hold as both gaming operators weathered the pandemic. Caesars later dropped out completely, leaving its main construction partner, Ssangyong E&C, holding the bag and unable to carry the weight of $27 million that would have to be made up from the Caesars loss. Caesars ultimately sold its stake to another construction company, China-based Guangzhou R&F Properties Co., washing its hands completely of South Korea and, effectively, Asia. It was one of the first companies to have shown interest in an integrated resort in Japan and was one of the first to drop out there, as well.
Guangzhou likely knew that it had a diamond in the rough, but would need help to push the project forward. It tried to get the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to authorize a three-year extension on the construction but failed, with only a one-year extension authorized. Guangzhou scrambled, pitched the project to potential investors and finally found the money it needed. It has reportedly been able to attract $16.5 million in foreign direct investment (FDI) and is ready to move the casino resort forward once again.
Long Road Ahead for Casino Resorts in Midan City
There is still a lot to be done after Midan City went dark a little more than a year ago. Now, however, there is a chance that things will start to improve. The Incheon Economic Administration is reportedly optimistic about an October relaunch of the development of Caesars’ former South Korean dream, which had only advanced to about 25% of its goal prior to COVID-19. Initially expected to open in 2024 and then 2025, it’s unlikely that any final product will be ready before the end of 2026, at the earliest.
For its part, MGE has previously stated that it is still committed to bringing its Midan City resort, Inspire, to life. It is already well behind schedule, with initial projections indicating the completion of phase one sometime next year. That schedule has already been scrapped, and MGE is likely to miss its planned 2023 phase one launch, as well. The Incheon Free Economic Zone is anxious to get both of the projects fired up again, as they are seen as key to further development of the area. Approximately 60% of the land targeted for development in Midan City remains available due to the continued delays of these anchor projects, and the sooner they can show substantial progress, the sooner more investments in the area will be made.