ECONOMY

Las Vegas Sands examines option of operating a casino in Athens

The planet’s biggest casino company is eyeing the creation of a casino in Athens, following its decision to scrap plans for the creation of a 30-billion-euro mega-resort in Spain.

Sheldon Adelson, the head of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, told Bloomberg on Monday that he will be examining options in various European cities such as Athens, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan and Paris for the creation of casino resorts.

This will not be the first time that the Israeli-American billionaire will be knocking on Greece’s door. In 2007 he submitted a casino proposal for Athens’s former international airport at Elliniko to Giorgos Alogoskoufis, who was finance minister at the time.

The issue of creating a casino in the Greek capital initially arose in 1994, when the country’s first casino permits were issued. However the subject has re-emerged as a topic for discussion since the start of the privatization process concerning the Elliniko site. In fact a special plan for Elliniko’s development recently handed to interested investors provides for the creation of a casino. The question of whether a casino will finally operate on the plot will be answered in another tender that the state will conduct at a later stage, after the completion of the concession process. The same more or less applies to the privatization of the Astir Palace hotel at Vouliagmeni, southern Athens.

Nevertheless market professionals note that the operation of a casino at Elliniko could create more problems than it would solve. The OPAP gaming company would be the first to raise a legal issue as it holds the 565-million-euro license to operate video lotto terminals (VLTs) and its agents have to adhere to terms and conditions such as player limits and identity cards by law. However, these terms and conditions do not apply to casinos.

Another likely reaction would come from the Loutraki casino, which obtained its permit with the state’s pledge that no casino would operate in the capital. That problem could be overcome by changing the law on taxation and reducing the rate for casinos from 33 percent to 20 percent, which would satisfy the Loutraki casino.

Generally Las Vegas Sands does not enter tender processes when it wishes to obtain a license. It tends to negotiate directly with governments for the creation of resorts with casinos instead of making bids. That could be its plan for Greece.