Bidder Snafu Hangs Up Hellenikon Casino License Award - The National Herald

Wednesday 27th November 2019

ATHENS - An end-of-November deadline to reveal the winner of a bid for a casino crucial to the 8-billion-euro ($8.81 billion) development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport will be missed because one of the two companies seeking the license left out some important data in financial data given regulators.

It wasn't reported who it was as the battle has come down to two US gaming giants, Connecticut's Mohegan or Florida's Hard Rock, who have squared off for months trying to win the lucrative award.

Greek media reports said the foul-up could push back naming the winner by up to six months, a further setback for Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis' promise to start construction on the project by the end of the year under the Greek company Lamda.

The development was stymied for 4 ½-years under the former ruling anti-business Radical Left SYRIZA which had elements that didn't want foreign companies operating in Greece although then-premier Alexis Tsipras said he was pursuing them.

That delay led Las Vegas' Caesars Entertainment and Genting Malaysia to drop out with the site sitting abandoned since the airport was closed in 2001, and original plans to make it Europe's biggest urban park changed to commercial use during a near-decade long economic and austerity crisis.

Greek regulators had been speeding various approvals needed to get the development going, including planning and zoning okays but the casino is central to the scheme to make the area a mix of high-end residences, businesses, and a marina for yachts and boats.

Hard Rock has said it would spend about $1.1 billion to build the gaming property, creating 3,000 construction jobs and 1,600 permanent positions and said it could begin operating within 20 to 26 months after breaking ground.

The winning bidder will receive near-monopoly protection, with a 30-year gaming license with Greek regulators requiring that the integrated resort feature convention venues and at least 1,200 slot machines and 120 table games, said Kathimerini.

The business newspaper Naftemporiki said reports claimed that the missing data included a letter of guarantee in the offer dossier is short by four days that the prescribed length.

A 300-million-euro ($330.21 million) down payment is due once the concession contract is concluded by authorities overseeing the award.

Hard Rock and Mohegan submitted their bids at the Oct. 4 deadline with Reuters then reporting that the winner will build a casino of at least 1.2 hectares (2.96 acres,) with at least 120 gaming tables and 1,200 slot machines, as well as a luxury hotel, conference center and a sports center.

The land area is a mess of abandoned weeds on crumbling concrete tarmacs, decript buildings and rusting aircraft has sat unused for 18 years, after the opening of the new airport northeast of Greece's capital.

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