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Economy

Hard Rock Seen Joining Hellenikon Casino Project, Mohegan Moves Aside

September 28, 2021

ATHENS – The Connecticut-based Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, given a contract to develop a 950-million euro ($1.110 billion) casino for the Hellenikon development at the abandoned international airport will step aside from its deal with a Greek partner, opening the door for its rival Hard Rock to also take part.

In a report, Kathimerini said that construction company GEK Terna is now the only shareholder for the project and that Mohegan's role will be only to prove expertise on how to run the facility.

That's seen accelerating the casino project that's a centerpiece of the 8-billion-euro ($9.34 billion) luxury development that will also feature a marina for the rich and their yachts, commercial buildings, luxury apartments and a reduced scale park on a site that was supposed become Europe's biggest urban green space.

The casino is part of the so-called Inspire Athens project that's aimed at luring gamblers to Hellenikon, which will face competition from other Greek casinos as well as the 550-million-euro ($642.35 million) City of Dreams casino project on Cyprus being developed by a Hong Kong billionaire.

GEK Terna had a 35 percent stake and Mohegan had the remaining 65 percent but the Greek construction company now has it all and is awaiting approval from Greece's Gaming Commission, the paper said.

The chance also will likely see Hard Rock, which lost out to Mohegan in a fierce competition for the license, to take on some role if its negotiations with GEK Terna yield an agreement, the report added, although not clear what.

The moves are seen as a push by the New Democracy government, which is keen on foreign investors, to prevent any more delays to get the casino going as the whole project was set back under the 4 1/2-year rule of the anti-business former Radical Left SYRIZA government.

It also means the state will get an initial payment of 150 million euros ($175.19 million) with no report where those proceeds will go, and as the government wants to speed the whole project, not expected to be finished for several years.

Sources not named said if the agreement with Hard Rock is realized that a contract would be quickly signed and that there are some unspecified obstacles or terms that need to be worked out.

The paper also said interest in the casino has gone back up again after long delays scared off potential investors, and that investor funds and the hotel industry is now keen on taking part.

In October, 2020 – a year ago – Mohegan's then CEO Mario Kontomerkos, who has since stepped down, said it would take three years to complete the casino project and that it would create up to 7,000 jobs.

There would also be partnerships with numerous local companies, with banks, construction companies and law firms, reported the business newspaper Naftemporiki, with the Greek state eying a bonanza too.

Hellenikon aims to become a popular leisure and entertainment destination for people from around the world, with restaurants, conference halls, luxurious hotels and cultural events and spur more projects on the so-called Athens Riviera still developing, and seen growing.

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