Mohegan Advances, Hard Rock Denied in Process to Build a Casino in Greece

MGE selected a top-notch architectural team to design its proposed integrated resort, Inspire Athens. Architect Paul Steelman says Inspire Athens’ proposed towers are modeled on Greece’s Caryatids and other cultural elements.

Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) has advanced to the next phase of a significantly delayed tender process for the rights to build and operate an integrated resort in Athens. But a bid by another Tribal gaming giant to construct and run a casino for at least 30 years at the disused Hellenikon airport location near Athens, Greece, was denied. The application by Hard Rock International, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, was rejected, a source told Reuters today.  

MGE has partnered with Greek construction company GEK TERNA on its joint bid. Mohegan Gaming CEO Mario Kontomerkos reportedly said that GEK Terna’s “reliability, effectiveness and deep knowledge of the Greek market will help us fulfill our vision for the Hellinikon area.” GEK Terna Group CEO George Peristeris echoed Kontomerkos’ statements hailing the opportunity to “cooperate with a leading international firm in the entertainment and gaming industry.”

Genting Malaysia is also vying for the casino license in Greece. 

The winner of the tender will build a casino on a 1.2-hectare site. The future complex in Greece, about four miles outside of Athens, is being lauded as Europe’s first integrated casino resort, slated to feature gaming-integrated hotels, convention facilities, entertainment shows, theme parks, luxury retail and fine dining. The gaming floor will tout a minimum of 120 gaming tables and 1,200 slot machines. 

Once MGE and other bidders receive notification of the decision from the Hellenic Gaming Commission, they have the right to appeal within 10 days. Technical offers will follow.

If Mohegan wins the bid, it won’t be the Tribal gaming arm’s first time to operate a casino an ocean away. In 2016, Mohegan won a license to develop a casino far from Tribal homelands — in Incheon, South Korea. “We literally are 1,000 feet away from the Incheon International Airport, which is the fifth busiest in the world, 70 million people go through that airport every year,” MGE CEO Mario Kontomerkos told HotelBusiness.com in June.

In addition to expanding cross-continentally, MGE is well-versed when it comes to operating gaming and entertainment attractions beyond country and state borders. MGE became the service provider for Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in early 2019. The company has also partnered on gaming resorts with the Cowlitz Tribe (in Washington state) and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana. When the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas opens in 2020, it’ll be MGE running the casino operation within, making MGE the first Native gaming operation with a presence in Vegas. 

The Momentum loyalty plan, started at Mohegan Sun, is a key component in Kontomerkos’ plan to become the world’s top casino resort developer. “We’ve got access to very affluent and very mobile demographics, global demographics,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He foresees a loyal customer base that plans vacations within a network of MGE establishments all over the world. As an example, he notes that Niagara Falls is a favorite destination of Korean tourists.

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