Hard Rock International Drums up $1.1 Billion Offer For Greece Casino Project as Bidding Heats Up

Posted on: August 23, 2019, 05:26h. 

Last updated on: August 23, 2019, 06:06h.

Hard Rock International, one of three remaining contenders to put a casino at the old Hellenikon International Airport near Athens, is willing to pony up $1.1 billion to move forward on its effort to put a gaming property near the Greek capital.

The old Hellenikon International Airport near Athens, where Hard Rock is bidding for a casino project. (Image: Business Insider)

Hard Rock International chairman and Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen confirmed his company’s offer at a media event in Athens earlier today. Allen’s remarks were made in advance of the Greek government’s Sept. 30 deadline for rendering a decision on the winning bidder for the gaming project.

Earlier this week, it was revealed the Hellenikon Airport casino venture has three bidders – Hard Rock International, Genting Malaysia, and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment. Amid a spate of delays and bureaucratic snafus, Caesars Entertainment previously dropped out of the running for the Athens endeavor. While Genting may be back in the fray, local media reports suggest Hard Rock and Mohegan Gaming are the front runners for the Greece casino.

Mohegan Gaming is said to be partnering with a Greek conglomerate known as GEK Terna to be part of the Hellenikon Airport refurbishment, which could eventually reach a price tag of $9 billion.

The unblocking and fast-tracking of Elliniko has hastened the visit of Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, one of the two reputed main bidders for the casino,” reports Ekathimerini, a Greek business outlet.

Recently, reports circulated that Mohegan Gaming CEO Mario Kontomerkos has visited Greece several times and that his company is readying a bid.

Promises, Promises

Hard Rock, which operates 11 casinos, said its $1.1 billion bid will be self-funded to the tune of about $277 million, with the remainder comprised of loans from Greek and international banks.

At the media event, Allen said his company’s plans to bring a gaming venue to the airport that was abandoned in 2001 would create 3,000 construction jobs and 1,600 permanent jobs inside the property.

Those numbers, particularly if they can be adjusted higher, could be compelling to Greek policymakers and regulators, because while the economy there is improving, Greece is still struggling with high unemployment. Joblessness there dropped to an eight-year low of 17.2 percent in May, but that’s still well above the rates seen in comparable economies, such as Italy and Spain.

Casinos currently located in Greece aren’t close to major tourist destinations or the capital city of Athens, explaining why land-based gaming properties there generated just about $332 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR) last year.

No Online Talk Yet

The focus for bidders on the Hellenikon Airport casino project is establishing a brick-and-mortar venue. But at some point, the winning company may look to test the waters in Greece’s booming online gambling market.

Last year, Greeks bet $7.75 billion online, up from $6.09 billion in 2018, according to the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC), proving that country is another fertile territory for internet and mobile betting.

GGR from online betting in Greece last year hit a record $434.13 million.