Greece Casino Effort Moves Forward After Government Inks Two Pivotal Approvals

Posted on: August 29, 2019, 11:45h. 

Last updated on: August 30, 2019, 02:22h.

The previously slow-moving effort to turn part of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport near Athens into a casino is gaining momentum. The Greek government recently signed off on two approvals seen as pivotal to moving the nearly $9 billion project forward.

Greek politicians are finally showing some desire to get the airport casino deal moving. (Image: Daily Mail)

Earlier this week, Greek policymakers put pen to paper on two of four decisions crucial to the fate of the project. Those decisions are the outlining of terms and conditions for tender offers by bidders to build a gaming property near the Greek capital city, and reiteration of a Sept. 30 deadline for the government to make a decision on the winning party.

Those moves are largely logistical and may appear to be old news (the Sept. 30 date has been mentioned for weeks). But regulators actually signing off on those permissions is notable because, to date, the process has been hampered by government red tape, frustrating some previously interested operators and prompting them to drop out of the process.

The two approvals clear the way for the tender, on schedule and without further postponements,” said Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis in an interview with Greek business media outlet Kathimerini.

Two more decisions, regarding central planning and zoning at the former airport site, are expected to be publicized next week.

Good Timing

News of the initial pair of approvals emerged just days after Hard Rock International chairman and Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen attended a media event in Athens, unveiling a $1.1 billion for the Hellenikon International Airport project.

As recently reported, the airport gaming property venture is likely down to three interested parties – Hard Rock, Genting Malaysia, and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment — with Hard Rock and Mohegan Gaming widely seen as the leaders of the pack.

Allen said his company’s plans include the creation of 3,000 construction jobs and 1,600 permanent positions once the project is completed in 20 to 26 months, assuming Hard Rock is the winning bidder.

The integrated resort part of the Hellenikon Airport revamp is expected to cost just over $1 billion, but renovating the entire property could carry a price tag of closer to $9 billion. A group of companies, led by Greek real estate firm Lamda Development, are charged with transforming the former airport site into an area with high-end residences, glitzy hotels, and a vibrant marina area to complement the gaming property.

Making Progress

The original deadline for tender offers and decisions on the project was July. But Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had to contend with a snap election last month, and has subsequently pledged to render a decision on the airport casino plan by Sept. 30.

Mitsotakis has been working to free the Greek economy from the shackles of the European sovereign debt crisis, which saw the country implement painful austerity measures to receive bailout funds from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Earlier this week, Mitsotakis announced the removal of controls hindering the movement of capital out of Greece, and the new government there is expected to address high labor costs, an issue likely to be of interest to companies looking to build an integrated resort in the Mediterranean nation.