South Korea casinos extend shutdown; Mohegan Incheon project delay

South Korea’s casinos are struggling as the country struggles to flatten its pandemic infection curve, while the global gaming slowdown has pushed back the opening of an in-development integrated resort.

On Monday, Grand Korea Leisure (GKL) informed investors that its three Seven Luck-branded foreigner-only casinos wouldn’t reopen as scheduled on Tuesday (29). Instead, the casinos will now reopen at 9am on Monday, January 4, provided the country’s third wave of COVID-19 doesn’t turn into a tsunami.

South Korea reported a record 40 pandemic deaths on Tuesday and new infections topped 1,000, leading the Yonhap news agency to warn of a “looming medical system crisis.” GKL shut its two Seoul casinos one month ago, and its Busan property followed suit shortly thereafter.

GKL’s main foreigner-only casino rival, Paradise Co Ltd, shut its Walkerhill casino in Seoul on December 15, promising to reopen on Tuesday. But Paradise announced this week that Walkerhill would now stay shut until January 4 at 7am. All Seoul casinos were operating at only 20% of normal capacity on the order of local authorities.

South Korea’s largest casino Kangwon Land, the only gaming venue in the country that accepts local residents, shut its doors for the third time this year on December 8. The venue is more geographically isolated than most, but has given up making predictions on when it might reopen.

Meanwhile, US casino operator Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) recently revealed that it was pushing back the anticipated opening date of its $1.5b Incheon casino Inspire Entertainment Resort from H2 2022 to “early 2023.”

Like many casino operators, MGE has found itself in a cash crunch due to the pandemic’s impact. But MGE is doubly challenged due to it having a number of pricey mega-projects on the go, including Inspire Athens at Greece’s Hellinikon integrated resort development.

MGE added that it expects to secure additional financing for its Korean project by “early 2021,” although the ongoing uncertainty surrounding any projects dependent on a certain volume of international travel means new financing will likely come at rates far less favorable than might have been possible a year ago.

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