Genting, Hard Rock, Mohegan Gaming Emerge as Final Competitors Casino at Abandoned Greece Airport

Posted on: August 19, 2019, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: August 19, 2019, 01:33h.

Plans to turn the former site of the Hellenikon International Airport near the Greek capital of Athens into a casino are crystallizing. Three contenders are emerging ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline for the Greek government to render a decision on the winner.

The old Hellenikon International Airport near Athens. Greek authorities are close to making a decision on its casino fate. (Image: VOA News)

Media reports out of Greece Sunday indicate Genting Malaysia, Hard Rock International, and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment are the final bidders to put a gaming property at the site of the airport that was abandoned 18 years ago.

Those reports surfaced less than two weeks after speculation swirled that Genting, along with Caesars Entertainment, had grown tired of bureaucratic delays and was prepared to bail on the Greece casino endeavor.

The New Democracy government said there would be deadline extension, although the process has taken so long. The developers blamed the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA for blocking the project for 4 ½ years – that only three casino bidders are left,” reports The News Herald.

Mohegan Gaming, the casino arm of Connecticut’s Mohegan tribe, is said to be partnering with Greece’s GEK Terna to be part of the Hellenikon Airport effort. Citing unidentified sources, The News Herald reports that Mohegan Gaming CEO Mario Kontomerkos has reportedly visited Greece several times, and that the company is ready to make a bid.

Assessing Options

Following news of Caesars and Genting being out of the mix, officials from Greece’s Development and Investment Ministry reportedly met with Hard Rock International and Mohegan leaders in an effort to move the Hellenikon casino deal forward. Local media reports did not elaborate on Genting’s new-found interest in the deal.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has affirmed his commitment to the airport casino endeavor. But it’s believed some of the bidders would like to see the Greek government take a more proactive approach to getting the project off the ground.

Plans for the former airport site have been hindered for years. Originally, Greek developers and lawmakers sought to turn the land into a massive urban park, an effort that was scuttled due to Greece’s financial woes following the global financial and European sovereign debt crises. With the economy there on the mend, interest in renovating the airport area has been rejuvenated.

“Unjustifiably low valuations provided good entry opportunity in 2019, but it took investors some time to grasp that economic reality is improving,” said East Capital partner Tim Umberger in a note published earlier this year. “The country is expected to grow at around 2.5% in 2019, significantly higher than the Eurozone, as the battered economy is getting out of a 10-year slump.”

Site Plans

Earlier this year, Genting, Hard Rock, and Mohegan Gaming submitted comments on the casino license and property leasing terms. All three companies are believed to have asked Greek officials for some relaxation on the land lease terms.

One reason for Caesars’ waning interest in adding a casino in Greece is that its international expansion plans are on hold amid Eldorado Resorts $17.3 billion takeover of the company. Eldorado has implied expansion outside the US is likely on hold for the foreseeable future.

In addition to the integrated resort at the old Hellenikon Airport venue, gaming companies and developers are pitching high-end hotels, residences, and a marina. The gaming license to be awarded there is expected to be a 30-year permit.