Hard Rock Bid for Hellenikon Casino License Rejected, Court Fight Looms

FILE - Kyriakos Mitsotakis visits the site of the former Athens international airport, in the coastal Athens suburb of Elliniko. (Photo by Dimitris Papamitsos/ Eurokinissi)

ATHENS – Setting the stage for a likely court challenge, the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) unanimously set aside a binding offer by Hard Rock International for a license to operate a casino when the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport is developed, insuring selection of the only other bidder, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment.

The Florida-based Hard Rock lost out to the Connecticut-based Mohegan, which teamed with Greek real estate and construction giant Gek Terna to operate the casino at what will be the country’s biggest project, an 8-billion-euro ($8.86 billion) development.

It has been stalled for years after the airport shut down in 2001 when a new airport was opened northeast of the Greek capital with Hellenikon becoming a site of decrepit, decaying buildings, rusting aircraft, weeds and neglected.

Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has made starting the project a keystone for his administration after it was stymied by the anti-business former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA during its 4 ½ year reign that ended in July 7, 2019 snap polls.

In another unanimous decision, HGC’s board also unanimously decided that there is no conflict of interest regarding a legal adviser hired for the tender process, as Hard Rock claimed lawyers for Mohegan were working for the commission.

A source who wasn’t identified told the news agency Reuters earlier that Hard Rock submitted documents that failed to meet the tender’s criteria for financing of the project and required construction experience.

Once the bidders are officially notified of the decision, they have the right to appeal within 10 days and then technical offers will follow, although Hard Rock officials earlier said they would challenge if rejected and said the HGC was allowing undue interference from its rival Mohegan.