Despite its bid being disqualified earlier in the process, the Florida-based Hard Rock International (HRI) expects a court challenge will bring the company the license for a casino when the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport site is developed, although it's already been awarded to the only other bidder, Connecticut's Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment.
“Hard Rock International will ultimately win the competition for Hellenikon…Hard Rock is the only company to have developed a project like this before and they will do it again,” a spokesman for the company, Michael Karloutsos, told The National Herald.
He said once Greece begins to gradually ease out a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus that the country will need the economic bump the 8-billion-euro ($8.66 billion) seaside project will bring, delayed for years.
“Hard Rock International is the only contender with a recognizable global brand and a world-wide network with staying power that can attract much needed additional tourists to Greece,” said Karloutsos.
Greece's highest administrative court on April 27 is set to hear HRI’s appeal, which had already been rejected by the Preliminary Appeals Authority and the Hellenic Gaming Commission.
“COVID-19 might have something to say about the timing of this going forward but I assure you that Hard Rock International is prepared to present our case and ultimately win either way, whether it is here in the Greek Supreme Administrative Court or the European Court,” he said, a prospect that could tie up the development further.
The Hellenic Gaming Commission’s board – the state’s regulator and contracting body for gaming, threw out HRI’s bid and awarded the license to the Mohegan but that has been put on hold by the appeal and now COVID-19 focusing attention on saving lives and the economy during a lockdown closing non-essential businesses.
The business newspaper Naftemporiki earlier said, citing unnamed sources, that HRI sent a letter of guarantee outside the specified time frame and didn’t have enough construction experience to get the casino up and operating and not enough financing – all points challenged by HRI based on its official statements and releases citing its experience, credit agency reports, and communications with Greek authorities.
HRI also claimed that the seven-member gaming commission (HGC) ruled that its appeal includes “specific reasons and arguments” for contesting the rejected tender decision but didn’t specify the reasons and arguments although it charged that “serious irregularities” were among them, the paper also had said.