Hard Rock Cries Foul over Hellenikon Casino License Bidding

(Photo by Eurokinissi, FILE)

ATHENS – Florida-based Hard Rock Cafe said that legal advisers it wouldn’t name are trying to influence a committee that will review a bid to operate a casino as part of the 8-billion-euro ($8.9 billion) development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport in favor of the only other bidder, Connecticut’s Mohegan.

Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen made the accusation at the 21st Capital Link conference in Manhattan where he met Greek Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis, both of whom were in New York City for the high-profile investors’ event.

Allen told the Athens TV station Ant1, implying Mohegan is trying to get Hard Rock disqualified to get the lucrative casino after Greek media said one of the two was facing being bounced over technical reasons.

The internecine battle between the two American gambling giants has further delayed the start of construction for the long-delayed project and means Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis won’t meet his promise to get it going by year’s end.

Allen said he notified the Hellenic Gaming Commission about what he said is a tainted tender process, charging that Mohegan legal advisers are also working for the panel that will award the license and that he told the government about a law office involved, which he wouldn’t name either.

With the problem under wraps, Hard Rock threatened “mass appeals” if the group is knocked out of the tender, as is Mohegan, setting up a bureaucratic and possible legal nightmare for the new Greek government for whom Hellenikon is benchmark.

The project is the biggest Foreign Direct Investment in Greece in 10 years and one of the biggest in all of Europe, after plans to make the site the largest urban park was scrapped because of Greece’s long-running economic crisis.

The Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC), which put the project out to public tender, is sticking to the letter of the law, said Kathimerini, with New Democracy – while wanting to accelerate the project – saying it would check off all the boxes first.

After consulting with legal advisers on each bid, the special committee set up by the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGG) to conduct the invitation to tender is now calling the candidates for evaluation in order to report back on what is the best combined offer.

Sources who weren’t named told the paper that it doesn’t look good for Hard Rock its representative Michael Karloutsos claiming while it trusted the HGG committee that it would go to court if it cheated.