Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MG&E) and Hard Rock International are the two bidders left in the competition to build and operate the integrated resort casino (IR) at the Hellinikon development in Athens. On Tuesday, led by its Greek-American CEO Markos Kontomerkos, Mohegan made its presentation titled ‘Inspire Athens’ to the media at the Hilton Athens.
On October 4, the two American resort and gaming industry giants submitted their bids to the Hellenic Gaming Commission in a tender to build and operate for 30 years a casino within a planned 8 billion-euro tourist resort known as Hellinikon, on the site of the former Athens international airport. The winner is expected to be named by December for a complex that will include a casino, a luxury hotel, and conference and sports centers.
Hard Rock announced, also on October 8, that “we look forward to conducting a press conference in Athens to share our vision with the people of Greece and the rest of the world once legally authorized to do so by the Hellenic Gaming Commission. Hard Rock is committed to bringing the company’s tremendous resources to deliver a world-class resort for Hellinikon and the people of Greece.”
While Mohegan’s proposal included the Greek firm GEK Terna as its construction partner, according to its press release, “Hard Rock’s proposal was submitted as a single entity, reliant solely on the company’s ability to perform design, construction, operations and procure financing for the project,” based on its experience with venues in 75 countries that already includes a Hard Rock Café in Athens Centre.
Kontomerkos introduced architect Paul Steelman, who explained the design concept illustrated by a video showing a woman drawing one of Athens’ beloved Caryatids, which morphed into a 1 ½ tower complex, as reported by The National Herald. Mohegan’s plan consists of two skyscrapers which are inspired by Caryatids, female sculptures used to support a temple on the Acropolis Hill.
To reinforce its case that Mohegan is sensitive to local cultural elements, the company recruited a bipartisan American team made up by former White House Chief of Staff and past RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and former U.S. Senator and past DNC Chairman Christopher Dodd, to share their experience with MG&E’s owner, the Mohegan Native American tribe, and to spotlight their commitment to “giving back to the communities” they build in and their respect for national traditions.
The overall Hellinikon Project was spotlighted on October 3 at Hellenikon-Argyroupolis City Hall where its importance to Greece and the Athens area was emphasized, both for its economic and psychological multiplier effects, ideas echoed at the Hilton by Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ilias Spirtounias, who told that newspaper he first wanted to “congratulate the municipalities because this is how investment should be pursued. The investors should contact the local people and explain the benefits of the investment,” and the investors can also ask about the concerns and needs of the community. He was also very pleased that two major American companies were the final candidates and emphasized that it will send a strong positive signal to the international investment community.
Rhode Island State Senator Lou Raptakis was also present, because “hundreds of Rhode Islanders work at Mohegan. They are a stellar employer to many Rhode Islanders and we have a very good relationship with the company and we want them to grow everywhere, and especially here, where the CEO and I have our roots.”
Kontomerkos remarked that both the design’s compatibility with the complex’s physical and cultural environs and the “direct, indirect, and induced” creation of up to 7000 jobs. He said that constructions of this type usually take 24 to 36 months and that Mohegan “will certainly comply within that timeline”.
He added that his company is committed to the project’s “appropriate and complementary execution for the Athens cityscape, to cultural, historic, and environmental sensitivity to the essence of Greece,” and to the creation of a world class resort and entertainment complex, themes echoed by Hard Rock International.
The completion of the Integrated Resort and Casino is expected to increase international tourism in the Attica region by at least 10% and contribute millions of euros annually to both the government and the people of Greece in the form of taxes, infrastructure improvement, and public services.