By V. Kostoulas
Next month’s looming deadline for binding offers to secure an Integrated Resort Casino (IRC) concession within the massive Helleniko site continues to cast an intense spotlight on what’s billed as one of Europe’s biggest property investments and an emblematic privatization in post-recession Greece.
The “Number 2” executive of one of the two main contenders for the concession, Hard Rock International for Asia CEO Edward Tracy, was in Greece this week and spoke to “N” about the privatization and the gaming license.
Asked directly about past delays, obstacles and red tape plaguing the nearly seven-billion-euro investment, Tracy said his company is now “very satisfied” with the situation today, days before the Oct. 4 deadline.
The other main contender for the IRC license is US-based Mohegan Gaming Entertainment, although interest has been expressed in the past both a Chinese and a Malaysian multinational.
The high-ranking Hard Rock International executive emphasized that the concept behind the IRC at the Helleniko site – where the old Athens airport and other auxiliary facilities once operated – mainly aims to lure holiday-makers from abroad.
Additionally, in a nod to the new center-right and unabashedly pro-business government in power since early July, Tracy said there’s now an expectation of lower corporate tax rates, with the timing right for anyone to invest in Greece.
Tracy said the budget for the proposed Hard Rock casino resort will be valued at one billion euros, while he said the project in Greece will be just as ambitious and spectacular as the group’s unique 1.5-billion-USD guitar-shaped property, which will open in Hollywood, Florida in the fall, and is expanded Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, also in Florida.
Moreover, he also expressed confidence in ATHEX-listed Lamda Development, the lead corporate entity in a consortium that initially won an international tender for the entire Helleniko site, located on a 620-hectare tract of prime coastal land in southeast Athens.
Tracy said Lamda Development was a “smart company”, with Hard Rock viewing its decision to become the sole Helleeniko concession investor as “vote of confidence” - not only for the project, but for the current political environment in the country and for Greece’s overall economic prospects.
Greece-based Lamda Development last week announced that it would completely take over the Helleniko concession, with its board of directors also saying an extraordinary general assembly of shareholders will be convened to approve of a share capital increase up to 650 million euros.
The move means that Lamda Development will buy out its two consortium partners, Chinese multinational Fosun and Abu Dhabi-based Eagle Hills. The trio participate in the Global Investment Group vehicle.