Hard Rock Loses Athens Casino Appeal, Greek Court Allows Mohegan Gaming to Proceed with IR

Posted on: May 8, 2020, 01:39h. 

Last updated on: May 8, 2020, 01:53h.

Hard Rock International has been dealt another setback in its quest to win licensing rights to operate an integrated casino resort in Athens, Greece.

Hard Rock Athens Mohegan Gaming
Old planes at the defunct Hellenikon Airport are being removed to make way for a casino. But as of now, it won’t be built by Hard Rock International. (Image: Milos Bicanski/Getty)

On Thursday, the top administrative court in Greece rejected Hard Rock’s appeal that it was wrongly denied the lone commercial casino license.

The permit, which the Hellenikon Gaming Commission (HGC) awarded to rival competitor Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, another gaming entity owned by a US tribe, allows the license holder to build a casino resort complex on the grounds of the former Hellenikon International Airport.

The Council of State, the supreme administrative court in Greece, rejected Hard Rock’s request for an injunction to halt Mohegan from proceeding with its Athens project. Hard Rock’s appeals were previously denied by the HGC, as well as lower courts.

Multibillion-Dollar Project

Hellenikon International was Athens’ main airport for 60 years until it was replaced in 2001.

Lamda Development, a Greek real estate developer, is pioneering a massive overhaul to transform the abandoned land into a tourism resort hub and “new destination for the City of Athens.” Called The Hellenikon Project, it is set to cost €8 billion ($8.7 billion).

Mohegan Gaming’s bid for the casino rights offered a $1.6 billion investment. Named INSPIRE Athens, the casino floor is required to house a minimum of 1,200 slot machines and 120 table games. The property will come with a luxury hotel and the typical features of a large-scale integrated resort, including convention space, retail shopping, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

MGE has partnered with Greek construction firm GEK TERNA.

We understood that INSPIRE Athens was meant to symbolize more than an integrated resort,” said MGE Chairman and CEO Mario Kontomerkos. “It is our hope that INSPIRE Athens would be the catalyst that sparks the entire development of the Hellenikon area into the coveted Athenian Riviera, forever redefining the modern identity of Greece.”

The executive added that Mohegan is committed to further elevating “Greece as a must-visit travel destination with this landmark hospitality destination.”

Hard Rock Complaint

Hard Rock International said its bid was not properly vetted. Reuters reported that the casino company owned by the Seminole Tribe in Florida was told they lacked an appropriate demonstration of building integrated resorts, and didn’t specify how it would fund its $1.1 billion Athens IR scheme.

“Absolutely laughable” is how Hard Rock executive Michael Karloutsos responded to the news. Hard Rock operates casino resorts in eight US states, plus Canada and the Dominican Republic. As of 2018, there were 185 Hard Rock Cafes in 74 countries.

Mohegan Gaming failed to pay a $19.7 million interest payment last month, as the coronavirus has halted incoming revenue for the company, owned by the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut. Mohegan doesn’t currently operate outside North America, but along with Athens, is building an INSPIRE integrated resort in South Korea.

Late last month, Karloutsos opined, “Hard Rock International is the only contender with a recognizable global brand and a worldwide network with staying power that can attract much-needed additional tourists to Greece. Hard Rock will ultimately win the competition for Hellenikon.”