BUSINESS

Former US base at Gournes on Crete set to host new casino

VANGELIS MANDRAVELIS

TAGS: Privatizations, Business

The government is moving ahead with the utilization of the plot that used to host the US military base at Gournes, near Iraklio on Crete, and is now preparing to decide on the precise position of the island’s casino.

Sources say that the joint ministerial decision that the Finance Ministry is drawing up will set Gournes, in the municipality of Hersonissos, as the geographical location for the construction of the casino by the owner of the permit already issued for Crete.

This decision, which is to be completed in the next few days, will put the property back on its utilization course set by state sell-off fund TAIPED. The previous New Democracy government had also tried to utilize the Gournes property in 2014, but without success, so it decided that it would be endowed with a casino license.

The SYRIZA government that took over in 2015 froze that process until 2018, when it passed the law that allowed for the issue of casino licenses on Crete, Mykonos and Santorini. However, the window that opened then for a casino at Gournes was never used as the Regional Council of Crete rejected the strategic study on the environmental effects of the project in a unanimous decision.

In October 2019 the new ND government chose a model for Gournes similar to that employed for the old Athens airport plot at Elliniko, restoring the option for a casino in the area. This new plan was approved – albeit marginally – by the Regional Council last Friday.

Although TAIPED aspires to create a “mini Elliniko” on Crete, it will not accept a postponement clause like the one in the Elliniko deal; therefore the concession of Gournes will start even without the issue of a permit for the casino there.

The plot on Crete covers an area of 345,000 square meters and has been split into two development zones: Zone 1 concerns a 29,100 sq.m. area to host a theme park, shopping center and recreational facilities, while Zone 2 will cover 316,000 sq.m. dedicated to tourist and entertainment developments such as a mini-golf course, a hotel, holiday homes and the casino. Interest had been expressed in Zone 1 in 2014 by toy and homeware retailer Jumbo and Dimand Real Estate, without any binding bids submitted, probably because there was no interest expressed in the second zone.

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