US casino operator Hard Rock International (HRI) isn’t giving up its quest to win a license to operate gaming at Greece’s Hellinikon integrated resort project.
Earlier this week, Greek media reported that the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) had rejected HRI’s bid for the 30-year casino license at the proposed €8b Hellinikon project on the site of Athens’ old international airport. The rejection, which hasn’t yet been formally announced, leaves HRI rival Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment and its GK Terna joint venture partner as the only remaining bidder.
Rumors of alleged problems with HRI’s bid paperwork first emerged last November. This week, Reuters quoted a source saying HRI’s bid was rejected because the HGC had doubts regarding HRI’s financing and construction experience for such a major project.
On Thursday, the National Herald quoted HRI ‘authorized advisor’ Michael Karloutsos saying it was “absolutely laughable” to doubt HRI’s financial capacity to finish the Hellinikon project. Karloutsos suggested that the HGC “must be confused because it’s clear they are referring to our competition.”
Karloutsos also took issue with the fact that HRI had learned about this “supposed disqualification” through the press rather than directly from the source. Karloutsos said “these leaks have done an incredible injustice to the Greek people,” while suggesting that the leak was part of a pattern that had “undermined this process from before the beginning.”
Once the HGC does officially notify the two bidders of its decision, the losing party will have 10 working days in which to voice any objection. Karloutsos confirmed that HRI would file a legal challenge if its bid is disqualified, noting that the company “has said repeatedly that it will take this process to the end.”
The Hellinikon project has already been subject to countless delays and it appears almost certain that more delays are in the forecast. The government is already trying to lift the requirement for the casino license to be issued before primary developer Lamda Development can start work on the project, in part because the government won’t get its first €300m payment from Lamda until work begins.