Wed, Jul 24, 1:29pm by Staff Writer
Greece’s plan for its first integrated resort and casino outside Athens got both good and bad news this month.
Calvin Ayre reports 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 objections were filed by local residents who claimed the project’s six landmark buildings, each of which will top out at 200 metres tall, will spoil their ocean views.
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.
On Monday, incoming Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said the new government would do what it took to ensure the Hellinikon project got underway this year.
Georgiadis said his department was cooperating with his counterparts in the Ministry of State to remove the remaining obstacles, including the long-delayed release of the three ministerial decisions required for the project to go forward.
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.
Georgiadis said the government’s goal was to issue the ministerial decisions in August “to be followed by a tender for the casino”.
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.
New Greek Government Promises Progress on Hellinikon https://t.co/Pj4x5JiSLr
— 20black (@20black5) July 24, 2019
Greece is home to several casinos, the largest being the Regency Casino Mont Parnes in Acharnes.
The gaming floor houses 700 slot machines and 50 table games, located roughly 25 miles from Athens.
Athens is the primary tourism destination in Greece and one of the world’s oldest city, with its attraction the Acropolis attracting more than five million visitors annually.
Permitting a casino resort to be built nearby is why the liberalisation has enticed several large casino operators’ interest.
The Hellenic Gaming Commission says its review will be “conducted on the basis of the most economically advantageous offer based on the best price-quality ratio.”
The minimum investment for the casino property is $1.12 billion.
The complex must include a casino with at least 500 slot machines and 100 table games, hotel and conference facilities.
The operating licence will be good for 30 years.
The integrated resort is part of Greece’s post-bailout scheme to make the country more financially stable.
The International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook ranks Greece as the 49th richest economy, with GDP totaling $235.8 million last year.
Tourism accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the country’s economic activity.
The European Union, IMF and European Central Bank bailed out the country in 2016 to the tune of more than $260 billion.
The global financial crisis of 2007-08 struck Greece especially hard, and the country nearly defaulted on its debt.
Threatening the viability of the Eurozone itself, the European Union, IMF and Central Bank loaned the massive funds in order for the country to continue making its payments.
With the three US casino operators reportedly losing interest in the Greece resort, a Chinese group has emerged as the frontrunner to win the licence.
China’s Fosun – an international investment conglomerate – has partnered with Abu Dhabi real estate firm Eagle Hills to build a casino on the former Hellinikon airport grounds.
Along with the resort, Fosun and Eagle Hills plan to build luxury homes, hotels and yachting marina.
Hellinikon was replaced by Athens International Airport, which opened in 2001.
The airport suffered as a result of the country’s debt crisis, as passenger traffic fell from more than 16.5 million travellers in 2007 to 12.5 million passengers in 2013.
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