GR US

Greece Calls Casino Bid for Long-Stalled Hellenikon Mega-Resort

Αssociated Press

Τhe old Hellenikon International Airport site. Photo: Eurokinissi/Georgia Panagopoulou

With a Hong Kong billionaire building Europe’s biggest casino on nearby Cyprus, Greece’s ruling Radical Left SYRIZA is seeking bids from casino owners to build a gambling mecca at the $8 billion Hellenikon Airport site that some elements in the party are trying to block.

The project has been delayed 12 year and hard-core anti-foreign business cadres within SYRIZA don’t want any outside companies in Greece at the same time Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is seeking investors he said are crucial to kick-start what he said is a recovery.

The gaming license for the project on Athens’ southeast coast, being developed by the Greek-led Lambda company which built the unlawful Athens mall and leads a consortium including the Chinese company Fosun, the Latsis Group and Abu Dhabi’s Eagle Hills, is being offered and the bids must be submitted by April 22.

The license will be good for 30 years, the tender published in the EU’s Official Journal said, with the Greek business newspaper Naftemporiki and Casino News heralding the bid that comes as a shipping ministry headed by SYRIZA has nixed a $580 million development of the port of Piraeus by the Chinese company Cosco that operates it.

That renovation would tie Piraeus to Hellenikon, with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in the middle to create what’s been called the Athens Riviera although much of the coast along the way and access to public beaches is blocked by private clubs requiring payment for use.

The Hellenikon consortium, growing frustrated over repeated delays, said the casino is vital to the project which will create a mixed high-end development of commercial buildings, hotels, a port and luxury structures instead of being turned into Europe’s biggest urban park as was envisioned before Greece’s economic crisis brought a need for money instead.

The Hellenic Gaming Commission announced the call for tenders, giving companies less than two months to put proposals together. The casino will be in competition as well with nine other casinos in Greece - some losing money - and as there are plans to add more on the popular tourist islands of Santorini, Mykonos and Crete.

It is still unknown when the winning applicant will be revealed. The Hellenic Gaming Commission said that the international tender will be “conducted on the basis of the most economically advantageous offer based on the best price-quality ratio.”

The operator will have to develop a resort with a gaming floor, accommodation facility, conference center, and a number of other facilities and invest no less than one billion euros ($1.13 billion) in the property, Casino News said.

Applicants need to have experience in the operation of at least one casino with no fewer than 100 gaming tables and now fewer than 500 slot machines; of at least one five-star hotel with no fewer than 800 beds; and of at least one conference and exhibition center of a total area of at least 7,500 square meters or at least one public sports or cultural events meeting place with capacity of no fewer than 2,000 seats.

The casino resort will occupy a site of approximately 15,000 square meters (161,459 square feet) in the area where the larger Hellinikon complex will be developed.

Hellinikon will also include residential areas, luxury hotels, retail areas, multiple food and beverage facilities, museums and cultural venues, family entertainment facilities, sports and recreation spaces, and many more.

The construction stage is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs, while the full resort is projected to employ more than 75,000 people and to bring at least one million international visitors but still faces some fierce opposition from within SYRIZA, although surveys show the party will lose elections this year to the more pro-development major rival New Democracy.