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Athens casino taking steps forward

Fri, Aug 23, 8:08am by Staff Writer

A bidding contest is emerging for a new casino to be built in Greece.

Ekathimerini reports the Elliniko development project, on the site of the former Athens airport, long stalled by the previous government, is finally being unblocked.

The Central Archaeological Council and the Central Modern Monuments Council, both reinvigorated with new appointees, met on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, to unblock previous objections to development on the supposed archaeological and monumental value of the site.

The government insists that the September 30 bidding deadline for the casino to be built on the premises will not be extended.

The unblocking and fast-tracking of Elliniko has hastened the visit of Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, of the two reputed main bidders for the casino.

Allen arrived in Greece on Thursday to visit government officials and private operators involved in the Elliniko project.

He has been preceded by Mario Kontomerkos, chief executive officer of rival bidder and casino operator Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment.

The two groups are likely the only bidders as Malaysia’s Genting and the US-based Caesars, which had initially expressed an interest, appear to have distanced themselves.

In the case of the Loutraki casino, talks between Irish group Comer and the Israeli owners of the casino appear to have hit at least a temporary snag.

Comer Group, which owns an extensive portfolio of commercial and other property, bought Piraeus Bank’s 60-million-euro loan to Club Hotel Loutraki “and related debtors” at a quarter of its value several months ago.

The loan is guaranteed by Club Hotel Loutraki’s other casino, in Belgrade. After buying the loan, Comer Group began talks for the acquisition of two Israeli investors’ shares in the Loutraki operator for 10 million.

Despite the Israelis’ apparent willingness to sell, Comer has not yet submitted a binding offer for the shares.

There is, on one hand, talk of the “unorthodox practices” of the Irish and, on the other, the issue of the 80 million the casino is demanding back from the Greek state for what it claims were excessive taxes paid.

Courts have ruled for the casino but the state has appealed to the Council of State, which has not ruled yet.

Good and bad news for integrated resort last month

Greece’s plans for its first integrated casino and resort outside Athens got good and bad news in July.

Calvin Ayre reported that the good news came last week after the Council of State rejected a series of objections filed against the Hellinikon project, an 8 billion euro integrated resort set to be built on the site of Athens’ former international airport.

The court also ruled against objections filed by Greece’s Archaeological Service, which had claimed the right to veto certain aspects of the project, but the court ruled that the former airport held no particularly aesthetic or historic interest.

The bad news for the project came via confirmation that the tender for the project’s lone casino licence will now extend through August, if not into September.

The deadline by which interested operators could submit their bids was originally April 22, but this date has now been pushed back four times.

The most recent deadline was supposed to be July 31, but the country held a snap national election on July 7 that resulted in the centre-right New Democracy party winning an outright majority.

The previous government tried to blame these delays on the Hellinikon project’s developed Lamda, an allegation that the company’s chief executive officer strongly rejected, noting that Lamda had submitted all its required paperwork back in February.

New Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said the government’s goal was to issue the ministerial decisions in August “to be followed by a tender for the casino”.

Mr Georgiadis said the new government remained “optimistic’ that it would be able to deliver on its promises, despite the complexity of the issues facing it.

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