Casino operator Hard Rock International (HRI) says it will “take the necessary actions” to protest its disqualification for the casino license at Greece’s Hellinikon integrated resort.
Earlier this week, the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) announced that HRI was officially out of the running for the sole casino license at the €8b Hellinikon integrated resort being built on the site of Athens’ old airport. HRI’s elimination meant the casino license will go to HRI’s tribal gaming rival Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE).
The casino tender terms stated that the losing party had 10 working days in which to file a protest of its elimination. On Thursday, HRI announced that it had “engaged its legal counsel in Greece,” setting up a date with a local arbitration authority, from which a decision would be expected within a month. HRI has also “retained counsel in Brussels” before asking the European Commission to review the matter.
HRI’s statement said it was “disappointed” to learn of its disqualification but was “more disappointed in the process.” HRI “firmly believes that it was wrongly disqualified on the basis of inaccurate rationale and a clear conflict of interest.” HRI said it was compelled to file its protest “to protect the company and its name from unfair and inappropriate practices.”
HRI believes the casino license tender was slanted to favor MGE’s bid from the start. HRI claims that the law firm hired to assist the HGC and the license tender committee has “represented a member of the competing bidder since 2008.”
HRI also accused MGE of failing to notify the tender committee of “one of its member’s participation in a price fixing cartel, which we were advised should have led to their disqualification.”
HRI said its intention in voicing its displeasure with the ruling was to ensure that the tender process is “completed correctly and financial bids submitted by both parties will be opened to ensure a transparent result.”
Rumors of issues with HRI’s bid first surfaced last November and further rumors swirled last week that the HGC doubted HRI’s financial capacity and its lack of experience in handling a project of Hellinikon’s size. HRI has consistently rubbished these claims, but both HRI and MGE said they would contest the HGC’s final decision if they came out on the losing end.
MGE, which has yet to comment on HRI’s appeal, has teamed up with local construction giant GEK Terna on a bid to build what they’re calling Inspire Athens. The Hellinikon project’s lead developer Lamda Development is legally prevented from starting work until the casino license issue is settled, although the impatient Greek government is attempting to find a workaround.