Hard Rock International, Mohegan Gaming Emerge as Greece Airport Casino Leading Contenders

Posted on: September 16, 2019, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: September 15, 2019, 05:55h.

Hard Rock International and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment are the two remaining competitors in the effort to bring a casino to the former Hellenikon International Airport site near the Greek capital of Athens.

Hard Rock and Mohegan Gaming are the two companies looking to build a casino at the Hellenikon Airport site in Athens. (Image: Business Insider)

Mohegan Gaming, the casino arm of Connecticut’s Mohegan Tribe, previously said it’s working with Greek industrial conglomerate GEK Terna to be part of the Hellenikon development project. Last month, Hard Rock revealed a $1.1 billion bid for a gaming venue on the premises of the deserted airport, which was last used in 2001. The total cost of the renovation is forecast to be close to $9 billion. In addition to the integrated resort, developers are pitching high-end residences, a marina, convention center, dining options and other attractions.

Connecticut’s Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MG&E) Chief Executive Mario Kontomerkos told reporters on the sidelines of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) that his company is still in the game for the license,” reports The News Herald.

Previously, Caesars Entertainment and Genting Malaysia were among the gaming companies competing with Hard Rock and Mohegan Gaming for the Greek license. But bureaucratic delays, among other factors, are said to be the culprit behind those companies’ lack of interest in the project.

Caesars dropped out of the running for the Athens casino over a month ago. In recent weeks, Genting was still believed to be interested in the deal, but less so than Hard Rock and Mohegan Gaming.

Moving Forward, But Delays Persist

Late last month, Greek lawmakers signed off on two of the four steps seen as crucial to advancing the Hellenikon integrated resort plan – detailing terms and conditions of the offers expected to be set forth by interested bidders and reiterating the Sept. 30 deadline for the government to render a decision on the winning party.

As has been par for the course, a delay has emerged, pushing the Sept. 30 tender offer date back to Oct. 4. While Prime Minister Kyrikos Mitsotakis has said the project is high on his domestic priority list, it appears that beyond selecting a victorious bidder, there will be little else in the way of action on the Athens casino initiative this year.

Mohegan Gaming’s Kontomerkos said that his company has been pleased with the New Democracy government’s efforts to boost efficiencies to move the project along.

The former government, the leftist Syriza party, was blamed for delaying the Hellenikon Airport redevelopment by four and a half years.

What’s At Stake And When It Could Happen

The Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) has mandated that the integrated resort include convention facilities and have least 500 slot machines and a minimum of 100 table games. But the winning operator will be compelled to oblige, because that company will receive a 30-year gaming license, granting it near-monopoly status in the Athens area.

The closest casino to Athens is the Regency Casino Mont Parnes in Acharnes. But that venue is 25 miles away from the Greek capital, indicating the winning bidder for the Hellenikon plan will enjoy a significant geographic advantage in the country’s most visited city.

Hard Rock has previously said it believes it can have the Athens casino operational by 2021 or 2022, depending upon when ground is broken.