Greece is pressing forward with plans to get into the integrated resort casino business, motivated by the government’s need to ensure its international lenders keep the cash coming.
On Thursday, the Council of State, Greece’s top administrative court, approved the development plan for a major integrated resort project on the site of Athens’ former Hellinikon airport. The decision was then published in the official Government Gazette to ensure that foreign lenders wouldn’t miss the message.
Greece’s international bailout agreement calls for the government to receive another €5.7b tranche in March, on the condition that the government follows through on promised economic reforms, including the privatization of the Hellinikon project.
In Thursday’s Council of State ruling, the judges dismissed concerns that the project’s proposed high-rises violated local planning regulations, declaring that such deviations from the norm “are justified in serving the purpose of the public interest.”
In 2014, the Greek government authorized a 99-year lease for 620 hectares of land at the airport for an international consortium that includes local developer Lamda, China’s Fosun Group, which operates the Club Med tourism business, and Abu Dhabi-based developer Eagle Hills Properties.
The consortium planned an €8b integrated resort that would include a casino, high-rise hotels, luxury residences and a marina at which well-heeled gamblers could park their yachts. But Greece’s habitual legislative inertia and tangled economy have plagued the project from the start.
The consortium claims the project will, once fully developed, boost the country’s gross domestic product by a not-insignificant 2.4% by drawing in a projected 1m new tourists to the region per year.