Hard Rock takes Greek casino bid to court

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Hard Rock ineligible in Greece

An American casino operator has had no luck overturning the Greek government’s decision to award an integrated resort licence to its competitor, Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment.

Calvin Ayre reports Greece’s highest court last week rejected Hard Rock’s latest appeal of the government’s decision to award the sole casino licence for the 8 billion euro Hellinikon resort on the site of Athens’ old airport to MGE and its local partner, construction giant GEK Terna. 

In January, the Hellenic Gaming Commission disqualified Hard Rock’s bid due to its alleged failure to provide a bank guarantee attesting to its ability to see such a massive project through to completion. 

Hard Rock protested that its guarantee had only arrived four days late and accused the commission of being biased toward Mohegan’s bid. 

Hard Rock’s efforts to overturn the ruling found little traction in the Greek courts, but the company is exploring its options with European Commission courts.

There’s still time for an appeal, as Greece doesn’t expect to formally issue its casino licence until next year, after it’s received Mohegan’s binding financial offer, meaning construction on the perpetually delayed project won’t start until 2022 at the earliest. 

Meanwhile, Hard Rock’s 2 billion euro Hard Rock Entertainment World resort project in Spain continues to languish, as opposition politicians protest the Catalan government putting up cash to ensure the project moves forward.

In March, Hard Rock worked out a deal with the government under which state-run firm Incasol would spend 120 million euro to buy the land, on which the resort is to be built and Hard Rock would repay the sum by May 5.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a decimation of Hard Rock’s casino operations and left it cash strapped, so in April, the government agreed to delay the repayment until October 5. 

Earlier this month, local media reported that Incasol had agreed to advance 80 per cent of the 120 million euro, which Hard Rock would now repay in three instalments, with Incasol not recovering the full sum until June 2022 at the earliest.

That prompted opposition deputy Natalie Sanchez to call the resort “a toxic project” and wonder why the government was “putting public funds at risk” for such a “speculative operation.” 

Sanchez claimed there were “up to 15 cases” in which Hard Rock could “return the land and recover the investment expenses,” leaving the government stuck with the land and its price tag.

This week, two groups filed a complaint against the local prosecutor’s office, accusing the government of “alleged irregularities” in issuing Hard Rock its gaming licence and acquiring the land.

The Stop BCN World group claimed the land deal clauses “may constitute an alleged crime of embezzlement” and are demanding the revocation of Hard Rock’s licence.

KamaGames and Hard Rock team up for new games 

KamaGames has launched a new international alliance with Hard Rock International to make social casino games, starting with the Hard Rock Blackjack for mobile.

Venture Beat reported in March the new app contains the most popular casino-style games in the KamaGames portfolio.

The game has 3D versions of classic casino activities such as roulette, craps, baccarat and blackjack.

In addition, this all-new app will include a number of other casino-style games such as slots and video poker, familiar to even the most casual players.

The timing is good because Las Vegas and other casino destinations around the world are shut down.

“Speaking for us, we definitely see some increase in the countries which have a quarantine,” said KamaGames chief executive officer Andrey Kuznetsov in an interview with GamesBeat. 

“Where people are working remotely, we see an increase in almost all key performance indicators.

“We see growth, for example, in Spain and Italy, and changes in most European countries.”

 “You’ve heard about Las Vegas shutting. And I’m sure casinos in some other jurisdictions will also close their doors or just have limited the events and activity.

“So it’s a very proper time for casinos to do this and offer something more online for the loyal audience,” Kuznetsov said.

Senior vice president of online gaming and sports betting at Hard Rock International, Kesimir Spajic said in an interview that his division focuses on free-to-play games, real-money gambling and media.

“We talked two or three years ago for the first time, and we always found KamaGames as an interesting proposition and a very promising company,” he said.

“They had great success in a very competitive category by focusing on table games. 

“We are very selective when it comes to partners and I feel KamaGames is a good fit.” 

Hard Rock Blackjack also includes a fully comprehensive and market leading social poker game based on the Pokerist Texas Poker model, currently the third-largest social poker game in the world.

In KamaGames’ social casino games, you can spend real money on virtual currency, but you can’t cash out your winnings. So, it’s not classified as gambling.

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