BUSINESS

Casino bidding contest is heating up; rivals visiting

ILIAS BELLOS

TAGS: Business

With the upcoming bidding for the new casino to be built at Elliniko and the sale of Club Hotel Loutraki, operator of the Loutraki casino west of Athens, competition between prospective operators is heating up.

The Elliniko development project, on the site of the former Athens airport, long stalled by the previous government, is finally being unblocked.

The Central Archaeological Council and the Central Modern Monuments Council, both reinvigorated with new appointees, are meeting on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, to unblock previous objections to development on the supposed archaeological and monumental value of the site.

The government, for its part, insists that the September 30 bidding deadline for the casino to be built on the premises will not be extended. 

The unblocking and fast-tracking of Elliniko has hastened the visit of Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, one of the two reputed main bidders for the casino.

Allen arrives in Greece on Thursday to visit government officials and private operators involved in the Elliniko project. He has been preceded by Mario Kontomerkos, CEO of rival bidder and casino operator Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment.

The two groups are likely the only bidders as Malaysia’s Genting and the US-based Caesars, which had initially expressed an interest, appear to have distanced themselves. 

In the case of the Loutraki casino, talks between Irish group Comer and the Israeli owners of the casino appear to have hit at least a temporary snag.

Comer Group, which owns an extensive portfolio of commercial and other property, bought Piraeus Bank’s 60-million-euro loan to Club Hotel Loutraki “and related debtors” at a quarter of its value several months ago.

The loan is guaranteed by Club Hotel Loutraki’s other casino, in Belgrade. After buying the loan, Comer Group began talks for the acquisition of two Israeli investors’ shares in the Loutraki operator for 10 million. Despite the Israelis’ apparent willingness to sell, Comer has not yet submitted a binding offer for the shares.

There is, on one hand, talk of the “unorthodox practices” of the Irish and, on the other, the issue of the 80 million the casino is demanding back from the Greek state for what it claims were excessive taxes paid. Courts have ruled for the casino but the state has appealed to the Council of State, which has not ruled yet.

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