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Hard Rock International Fails in Bid to Extend its Brand into Greece


One of the leading casino operators in the US has failed in its quest to obtain a license to operate a proposed gaming floor in an integrated resort in Greece called Hellinikon. The €8 billion Hellinikon project, which is due to be launched on the former Athens international airport land, is one of the most anticipated developments in the country at present, with an exclusive casino said to be one of the jewels in the project’s crown. However, the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC) is reported to have deemed Hard Rock International ineligible to tender for the proposed premises.

The HGC unanimously agreed that Hard Rock International’s bid for exclusivity for Hellinikon’s gaming license would be rejected. At the time of writing, there is only one additional bidder for the project’s gaming license, in the shape of a joint bid between an American tribal gaming operator (Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment) and Greek construction form, GEK Terna. It is thought that Hard Rock’s proposal was denied based on “technical” grounds and the general “substance of its offer”.

Understanding the scope of the Hellinikon project

Hellinikon is a 21st century entertainment resort that’s designed to help Greece’s tourists look to the future, as well as its past

Hard Rock International is said to have been given up to ten working days to respond to the formal rejection of its application for a 30-year casino license. A source was quoted by Reuters as saying Hard Rock’s tender was thrown out by HGC on suggestions that it lacked the funds and expertise in construction to undertake a project of this magnitude.

The winning bid for the tender would be required to construct a state-of-the-art casino that will span a minimum of 1.2 hectares, containing at least 120 gaming tables and more than 1,200 video slot machines. Aside from the casino, the Hellinikon development is due to have conference and sports center facilities, a luxury hotel and multiple entertainment venues as part of renewed efforts to enhance Athens’ tourist appeal.

According to Hard Rock International’s ‘authorized advisor’ Michael Karloutsos, the suggestion that the company did not have the financial wherewithal to conclude such a project was “absolutely laughable”. Mr Karloutsos believes the project’s leaders were “confused”, insisting that they must be “referring to our competition” instead. He also reiterated Hard Rock International’s vow to mount a legal challenge against the disqualification of its bid. The brand has been working hard to embed itself across Europe since the launch of its first branded hotel in the party island of Ibiza.

Closer to home, the Hard Rock brand will certainly get plenty of positive airtime in the coming weeks, given that it sponsors the Miami stadium that will play host to the 2020 Super Bowl. Everyone in the US is already talking about the Road to Miami, with this year’s NFL playoffs some of the most evenly contested in many a year, and the experts from betting teams already giving their picks and analysis for the biggest competition of the year.

Hellinikon: A beacon of hope for Greece’s gaming scene

In terms of the gaming sector as a whole, the country of Greece has struggled in recent years to create a thriving industry for locals, both offline and online. First and foremost, Greece’s iGaming licensing regime has taken several years to obtain approval from the European Commission. At the turn of the New Year, the Greek Ministry of Finance confirmed that draft proposals for futureproof iGaming legislation in Greece had been submitted, focusing largely on wagering on sports and additional online casino-style games.

Never before has the Greek government fully licensed its iGaming industry. As such, the draft proposals said to include maximum stakes of €2 for games involving random number generators (RNGs), in line with recent legislation in the UK.

Offline, the Greek government has been at loggerheads with land-based casino operators for some time over their taxation and social security payments. In 2018, the Loutraki Casino was awarded back-tax by the Tripoli Administrative Court of Appeal. The ruling said that the government had been wrong to increase the operator’s rate of taxation to 33% from a base level of 20% in 1996. Many hope that the success of the Hellinikon casino project can redefine Greece as a genuine gaming hub.

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