ATHENS – More than 4 ½ years of the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA blocking the 8-billion euro ($8.91 billion) development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport on the Greek capital’s coast has seen two major bidders for a critical casino unlikely to stay in the running.
The Las Vegas-based Caesar’s and Malaysia-based Genting are losing interest, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki, leading the Development and Investment Ministry to meet with Mohegan and Hard Rock International and set a Sept. 30 deadline.
The head of the ministry, Adonis Georgiadis said that, “Without the tender for the casino the investment at Helleniko cannot proceed,” a prospect that would doom the project otherwise and end a long-running melodramatic saga.
Unable to meet his first priority of immediately starting Hellenikon, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with Spiros Latsis, the billionaire head of the consortium that’s been eager to get started.
Mitsotakis said he’d give the go-ahead his first week in office after winning July 7 snap elections but the project’s start now has been pushed back at least until the year’s end because of unstated bureaucratic delays that have hampered it for for years.
Mitsotakis said he would do whatever it takes to get the project going but didn’t say why he doesn’t step in to overrule what’s blocking it. Latsis is head of Lambda Development, the lead partner in a team with China’s Fosun and Abu Dhabi’s Eagle Hills.
They blamed former premier and now major opposition Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras for blocking the project at the same time he said foreign investors – which elements in his party wanted to keep out – were critical for a burgeoning slow recovery.
Earlier, Georgiadis said his ministry would accelerate the licensing process so that Lamda can lease the property from the state and start construction. A series of approvals from several ministries and a tender for the construction of a casino are pending but it wasn’t said why neither he nor Mitsotakis didn’t mandate immediate licensing be done.
The consortium plans are to turn the old airport into a complex of luxury residences, hotels, a yachting marina and casino after the original plans to create the largest urban park in Europe were set aside during an economic crisis, the government preferring cash.