Betting on the Future: a Look Inside Korea’s Epic New Entertainment Resort

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Inspire Resort South Korea
Image: Hetzel Design

If you want to see what the future looks like, head to South Korea. For more than a decade, the country has been ranked as one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.

They were downloading movies, with lightning-fast broadband, while we were still using a dial-up to download a jpeg.

So, when a multi-billion-dollar entertainment resort and casino opens, the size of 64 football fields, with its own concert arena, an indoor water park, a ‘foreigner-only casino’ and an ‘immersive digital entertainment street’, it’s worth taking a closer look.

Background

The first phase of the Mohegan INSPIRE Entertainment Resort was launched in November 2023, with a ‘soft opening’.

In March 2024, more than 500 domestic and international key figures attended the grand opening.

The 4.3 million square meter complex is located near the main airport, on Yeongjong Island, in the Incheon Free Economic Zone; an area specially designated to create a favorable business and living environment for foreign investment.

Inspire Entertainment Resort
Image: Hetzel Design

Korea is the fourth largest economy in Asia. The resort is the largest of its kind in northeast Asia. Only Macau can out-wow it.

It’s a clear statement of intent from South Korea: more tourism, more investment, more business. Chinese tourists account for a third of Korea’s visitors.

Korea is considered to be one of the world’s most innovative nations; leading the Bloomberg Innovation Index for many years, awarded to the most technologically advanced economy.

The project has been something of a hot potato, since it was first approved in 2014.

Caesars Entertainment was keen to get a foothold in Asia but sold its stake in the business. The resort is now a collaboration between the Management Board of Mohegan and the Korean government.

Who knew that a Native American Tribe would eventually gain so much wealth, with gambling and casinos, that it would end up striking billion dollar deals with countries on the other side of the planet.

The Themes: Forest, Sun & Ocean

The resort’s 5-star hotel is the work of multi-award-winning architects Hetzel Design; based out of Los Angeles and specializing in innovative design.

The hotel consists of three towers: Forest, Sun, and Ocean. There are 1,256 rooms, spas, fitness centers, and every modern facility you would expect.

The theming is aligned with each tower’s name.

The Forest Tower represents tranquillity: nature, plant life, and the environment.

The Sun Tower is all about the energy of the sun, with stone, wood, and a colorful (mainly red) ambience.

Finally, the Ocean Tower is cool, blue and business-like.

Aurora & Mall

One of the highlights of the new resort is Aurora: a digital, fully-immersive, entertainment street, featuring 150-meter-long LED displays that span the ceilings and walls.

aurora inspire resort
Image: YouTube

Eye-dropping imagery creates illusions from nature and fantasy. One moment, you’re under the sea, with whales cruising above; seconds later, you are in the middle of a collapsing volcano.

It’s a totally immersive, jaw-dropping experience and one of the highlights of the resort.

The INSPIRE Mall will feature all the usual suspects: 10 restaurants, a 1,000-seat food court, a media art exhibition hall, and more.

According to the publicity, it’s ‘not just a place for shopping, but a complex cultural space combining elements of art, design, innovation and technology’.

It also does great Korean fried chicken.

Ballroom, Arena & Splashpark

At the heart of the resort is the INSPIRE Arena; a multi-purpose, 15,000-capacity venue, with state-of-the-art audio and video systems.

Expect to see boxing, esports, and – of course – a lot of the Korea’s most famous export: K-pop. The stadium has a bespoke Meyer Sound system that offers an ‘unparalleled sonic experience’.

For conferences, business events, and very big parties – for up to 3,000 people, the 2,777 square meter INSPIRE Ballroom has you covered. It’s the biggest in Korea.

Splash Bay is a dome-shaped multi-functional water park, under a giant glass dome.

Inspire splash bay
Image: TTGmice

The pool has a moveable floor, enabling the water depth to be set to different heights. This allows the pool to be used in different ways; cinema, dancefloor, live music.

You can do it all and swim at the same time.

Casino

Perhaps the most significant element of the INSPIRE Resort is its new ‘foreigners only’ casino.

It comes with 150 tables games, 390 slots, and a further 160 electronic table games.

The two-storey venue also comes with an upper floor, targeting VIP guests with high stakes action and some Guandong-style fine dining, putting it up there with some of the best high roller casinos we’ve seen.

It’s the first new casino to open in Korea in two decades, which highlights the country’s slightly antediluvian gambling laws.

South Koreans are still subject to strict gambling regulations.

There are 17 casinos registered with the Korea Casino Association, but only one is open to Koreans: the Kangwon Land Casino.

The Kangwon Land Casino was created to fill the economic blackhole, left when the province’s coal mines were replaced by gas and oil in the 1990s.

In 2023, the resort showed a nearly 200% increase in operating profit to $260 million. Its success eases the development of similar projects.

It’s all interesting to point out that Korean criminal law applies to Korean citizens throughout the world.

If you spot a Korean playing blackjack in Las Vegas, or on their phone playing at one of the top online casinos, he or she is breaking the law and could be prosecuted when they head back to Seoul.

A popular legal workaround is dual citizenship (and pretending not to be Korean).

Final Thoughts

With its five-star reviews, the promise of profitability by the end of 2024, and a facility that showcases the latest technology, innovation, and design, the INSPIRE Entertainment Resort might be worth a layover on that next trip to Asia.

Paul Cullen
Casino Industry Expert
Paul Cullen
Casino Industry Expert

Paul Cullen is an industry veteran, with a track record that stretches back to day one. He started his career as a copywriter and creative for the world’s very first online sportsbook: Intertops.com. There was no one else. Since then, he has seen the industry evolve and grow, working at BetonSports, BetWWTS, Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet, InterCasino, PartyGaming, Mansion, Bodog, Casino Choice, Costa Bingo and Casumo. The evolution of Internet gaming, the arrival of the online casino, the poker revolution, and the bingo boom. He’s got the t-shirt.