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Greek casino market hit by delays at Elliniko

A series of delays and setbacks jeopardize the largest privatization in Greece and one of the biggest real estate projects in Europe: the redevelopment of Athens’s former airport area at Elliniko. This affects in a great way the already crisis-hit Greek casino market, because one of the first construction projects that is to be built on the land is an integrated casino resort facing the Agios Kosmas marina.

The casino resort is a key part of the development plans of the consortium of Abu Dhabi and Chinese investors, led by Greece’s Lamda Development who signed a deal in 2014 for the 99-year lease of the former airport area.

According to the Elliniko concession agreement, the Greek Government must issue a new casino permit that will be awarded to the winner of an international tender.  That means that the Attica Region will get a second casino, in addition to the pre-existing Regency Casino Mont Parnes.

After months of waiting, in January 2017, the Greek Parliament passed a law that allows the licensing of a casino in the area. According to the draft law, the concession of the Elliniko casino permit will be conducted via international tender. The precise terms and the time the new permit will be issued would be determined by the finance minister, but no developments have been reported so far.

But this is not the only problem that affects the Athenian casino market. Older agreements dictate that the Mont Parnes Casino must move from the top of Mount Parnitha where it is currently located to an area closer to the urban landscape, most probably somewhere on the Northern Suburbs of Athens. As a matter of fact a draft bill that would allow the move was presented at the Greek Parliament on December 2016, but was later withdrawn with the government promising to return with a new bill in due course.

Another factor that will determine the future of the gambling industry in Athens is the decision from the Hellenic Gaming Commission to introduce 35,000 new video lottery terminals (VLTs) throughout the country. The plan entails that Greek OPAP, Europe’s fourth-biggest betting firm, will install 16.500 terminals by next year. The company launched the new business in January and already operates 1,274 machines.

In a conference call presenting 2016 results, Chief Executive Officer Damian Cope said that OPAP will continue the rollout of the machines until the middle of next year and that 2019 will be the first full year of operation. The ambitious VLT expansion plan will be financed in large part by the 200 million euro that the company raised through a successful bond issue.

But several Greek casinos, one of them being the Regency Casino Mont Parnes, have filed a motion with the highest administrative Court of Greece, the Council Of the State, seeking an injunction on the decision regarding the VLTs from the Hellenic Gaming Commission.