Fri, Jan 24, 11:50am by Mia Chapman
US-based Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment and Greek construction company GEK TERNA have been granted the initial right to develop a casino resort within the former Hellinikon International Airport in Athens.
Neos Kosmos reports the Hellenic Gaming Commission awarded the casino-operating licence to the Mohegan consortium ahead of the bid for another tribal gaming organisation, Hard Rock International, which is owned by the Seminole tribe in Florida.
The proposed resort, which will be known as INSPIRE Athens will feature a luxury hotel, several entertainment venues, a convention centre, shops, restaurants and a casino.
It is estimated that the gaming space will require 120 table games and 1,200 slot machines.
Casino.org reported that Hard Rock International had submitted a $1.1 billion project proposal, however, Mohegan and GEK TERNA did not unveil their investment cost for the project.
Hard Rock International has 10 days to object the decision or to bring the matter before Council of State in Greece.
“We understood that Inspire Athens was meant to symbolise more than an integrated resort,” Mohegan Gaming chief executive officer Mario Kontomerkos said.
“It is our hope that Inspire Athens would be the catalyst that sparks the entire development of the Hellinikon area into the coveted Athenian Riviera, forever redefining the modern identity of Greece,” he said.
The casino complex will be part of a larger development for the former airport that is in the hands of Lamda Development, which in December submitted a 650 million euro share capital increase plan.
Aegean Airlines and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are partners in the overall project, which is considered the biggest urban development in Europe.
Lamda Development’s chief executive officer Odysseas Athanasiou said that the Hellinikon project could add up to two per cent to Greece’s gross domestic product.
The Inspire Athens design was created by international architectural firm Steelman Partners and is inspired by the buildings and sculptures of Ancient Athens.
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US casino operator Hard Rock International was ruled ineligible to participate in the tender for Greece’s Hellinikon integrated resort project last week.
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.
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