The Holy Grail of the Greek casino sector, an operating licence in Athens, is up for grabs with the Government announcing that the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC), is initiating an international tender process for licensing, in Athens, for what it says will be ‘one of the first European Integrated Resort Casinos.’
Known as the Hellinikon IRC Project, it will comprise a casino accompanied by hospitality, retail, leisure, and MICE facilities. This represents a landmark opportunity for an IRC in the as yet underpenetrated European market, occupying a designated prime location within the Hellinikon – Ag. Kosmas Metropolitan Area on the site of the Athens former international airport and the adjacent coastal front at the core of the area known as the Athens Riviera.
The Hellinikon site is under privatisation. In this respect, the preferred bidder of the Project will need to reach an agreement for the land with the future owner.
The HGC is aiming to attract experienced investors and operators from the global gaming industry towards entry into a long-term agreement for the operating license and the development of a world class landmark Integrated Resort Casino. The Greek Government is fully supportive and sees the Hellinikon IRC as a priority development expecting it to have a significant positive impact on the country’s economy.
After completion of the consultation stage, the HGC will proceed with the launch of the licencing process by means of an appropriate international tender. It is foreseen that participants in the tender process will be provided with the opportunity to visit the site at a suitable time before submitting their bids.
The Hellenic Gaming Commission said: “The Hellinikon Casino goes beyond the licensing of just another gaming facility. This present call reflects the collective vision and commitment to collaborate on the further development and implementation of a sustainable tourism destination. The HGC envisages a world class Integrated Resort Casino operation as an important part of the Hellinikon, a project destined to transform the wider area of Athens and improve the lives of millions of residents and visitors of our capital city, enhance the Greek tourism product and become a growth engine for the Greek economy.
“Over the next few years, the Hellinikon will become an international business and financial hub on an exquisite location. The Hellinikon, a landmark urban development project will utilize investment amounts of up to €8bn, creating 10,000 jobs during the construction period and 75,000 jobs during its maturity,” it added. “The IRC site can yield an area more than 600k sqm and is envisaged to be developed as a largescale iconic lifestyle destination with a compelling mix of a resort development comprising hotels, convention and exhibition facilities, themed attractions, entertainment, casino gaming up to 15,000 sqm buildable area, shopping, gourmet restaurants, cultural elements, and other tourist attractions. Interested parties are encouraged to take part in the consultation process and to communicate to the HGC, on a strictly confidential basis, their feedback and comments on this investment opportunity for a pioneering project not just in Athens or Greece, but in the whole of Europe.”
Currently there are nine operating (out of ten licensed) casinos across Greece. Two of the three largest operating casinos are located in the wider Athens area namely Mont Parnes and Loutraki. The recent regulatory change permits the relocation of Mont Parnes casino to a more central and urban site of Athens and three new casinos to be licensed on Crete, Mykonos and Santorini islands.
The domestic casino market in Greece is dependent on local players, thus it was affected by the overall economic recession in Greece and faced a downward trend since 2008. However, with the steadily improving economic outlook for the country the Greek gaming market should be expected to recover and the Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) to reach pro crisis levels in the near future.
The largely unutilised potential of a sizable international market and the leverage from international tourism and VIPs combine to make the development of the Hellinikon IRC a unique opportunity to reshape the gaming industry in Greece and a landmark investment in Southeast Europe.
The Greek Government recently introduced an attractive regulatory, tax and legal framework offering considerable incentives, such as lower tax rates on GGR, to attract new investments in the gaming sector.