Thu, Jan 16, 8:45pm by Noah Taylor
US casino operator Hard Rock International has been ruled ineligible to participate in the tender for Greece’s Hellinikon integrated resort project.
Last Tuesday, Greek media outlet Ekathimerini reported that Hellenic Gaming Commission board members had unanimously agreed at a meeting last Friday to accept a committee’s conclusion rejecting Hard Rock’s bid for the sole gaming licence at the 8 billion euro Hellinikon project, which will be built on the site of Athens’ old international airport.
Calvin Ayre reports issues with Hard Rock’s bid paperwork first surfaced last November, leading Hard Rock to warn it would mount a legal challenge if its bid was disqualified on a technicality.
The only other bidder – a joint venture of US tribal gaming operator Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment and local construction giant GEK Terna – vowed to file its own challenge if Hard Rock’s allegedly faulty bid was allowed to continue.
Once the committee formally notifies both bidders of its decision, the companies will have 10 working 10 working days in which to submit any objections.
Sources claimed that Hard Rock’s bid was rejected for “technical reasons and for the substance of its offer,” creating doubt as to the chances for success of any legal challenge it might mount.
The gaming commission’s slow process at arriving at this conclusion was intended to ensure that its decision was based on solid legal footing to avoid the likelihood of further delays.
Hellinikon’s primary developer, Lamda Development has been prevented from commencing work on the project until the casino permit has been issued.
Greece hasn’t had much luck making changes to its gaming sector, as evidenced by the decade-long effort to bring its online gambling licensing regime into compliance with European Union trade rules.
The country also has routinely battled with its existing land-based casino operators over issues of taxation and most recently, alleged underpayment of social security contributions.
— Dokter Bola (@dokterbola_ID) January 16, 2020
The awarding of a new casino licence in Greece faces further delay after one of the two bidders failed to deliver all of the necessary financial data in preparing their bid.
Calvin Ayre reported that one of the two contenders, either Hard Rock International or Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment delayed the Greek government’s November decision by up to six months.
The Hellenic Gaming Commission has now found a way to drag the casino project out even further, after the government previously asserted there would be no more delays.
According to Greek news outlet Naftemporiki, one of the two firms included a letter of guarantee, as required, but it was “short by four days the prescribed length”.
The project has already been delayed more than once due to controversy and political fighting over whether or not it should be allowed.
The HGC had stalled efforts to see development take place, forcing extensions in the bidding process multiple times.
When Greece saw a new prime minister recently step in, the New Democracy Party’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis, he vowed to make a number of changes to help Greece speed up its economic recovery and forced the HGC to quit dragging its feet.
Greece has, on several occasions, received bailouts from the European Union due to a stalled domestic economy.
Provided no laws are broken, all politicians, regulators, decision makers and any other individual in position of authority should jump at the chance to have any industry come in and help turn things around.
A local company, Lambda Development, is ready to get started on the Hellinikon redevelopment project, which is reportedly worth $9 billion and centres on the former site of the Hellinikon International Airport.
This means more jobs, commercialisation and opportunities for the country.
Hard Rock International is prepared to spend around $1.1 billion on a casino resort project that would create several thousand construction jobs and approximately 1,600 permanent positions.
Mohegan Sun reportedly has a bid of about the same amount, and t he benefits of either company coming in would be huge to the local economy.
Once the dust settles on the latest delay and a winner is finally chosen, that entity will be afforded virtual exclusivity to operate the resort for 30 years.
The property will be allowed to have around 120 table games and more than 1,200 slots and must also include facilities for conferences, meetings and conventions.
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