Ministry gets casino proposal

An American billionaire businessman has submitted a proposal to the Greek government to build a casino at Athens’s former international airport as changes in the country’s gaming industry are expected to soon take place. Sheldon Adelson, a US investor with interests in Las Vegas and Macao, has repeatedly expressed interest in building a casino at the former airport in Hellenikon or at a site in Viotia, central Greece, according to sources. His proposal is believed to include a broader investment plan of some $11 billion. The building of a new casino and the issuance of new licenses requires legislative changes and a tender process. The former Hellenikon airport, which stopped operating in 2001, has been earmarked for the construction of Europe’s largest park, according to the government. The blueprint states that 400 hectares will be made into a park area, while 100 hectares will be used to accommodate housing and office facilities. The Finance Ministry is believed to be looking into ways it can up revenues from the country’s casino industry as Greeks are ranked among the heaviest gamblers in the world, on a per capita basis. In addition to taxes, the Greek state collects between 20 percent and 33 percent of casino gross income, while local communities get another 2.0 percent to 4.5 percent. Statistics show that in recent years gambler preferences have been changing, with punters moving away from table games toward slot machines, an area the government is considering of taxing separately. Casinos operate in several locations, including Athens (Regency Casino Mont Parnes), Loutraki, Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Xanthi, Rhodes, Syros and Rio. The busiest ones are those of Loutraki, Thessaloniki and Athens. According to sources, one of the changes being examined is to move the Syros casino, which started operating in 1997, to Myconos. The Syros casino was in the red up until 2007. Other options being examined by the Finance Ministry include selling its 51 percent stake in the Mount Parnes Casino and its 100 percent holding in the Corfu Casino.