Hard Rock appealing MGE's license for Inspire Athens

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Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment’s bid to develop an integrated resort in Athens, Greece, has hit a potential snag, at least temporarily.

Hard Rock International, the Florida-based entertainment company owned by the Seminole Tribe, has appealed the Greek government’s decision to award MGE a license for Inspire Athens, a $1 billion project proposed as part of the rebuilding of the former Hellinikon airport property.

MGE, Mohegan Sun’s corporate parent, had emerged last month as the winner of a two-way competition after the Hellenic Gaming Commission rejected Hard Rock’s application. Hard Rock indicated it would contest the decision, reportedly alleging that the licensing process was tainted by “a clear conflict of interest.”

Hard Rock claimed a law firm that advised the commission also had represented a member of the Mohegan Tribe.

“Based upon the evidence gathered, Hard Rock believes the outcome of the initial decision was improperly determined,” the company said late last week in a statement. “Hard Rock remains confident in its submission and firmly believes its proposal is the best for (Hellinikon) and Greece."

“We are confident that the judicial and administrative systems, whether in Greece or the EU, will recognize that Hard Rock International has been unfairly treated. Hard Rock remains supportive of the current Greek administration and is hopeful that Prime Minister (Kyriakos) Mitsotakis will personally take action to investigate the claims put forth in our appeal …”

Mario Kontomerkos, MGE’s president and chief executive officer, declined to comment on the matter. 

In November, Kontomerkos said Greek officials had indicated a decision on the license would be announced in early December, which turned out not to be the case. MGE and Hard Rock were the only applicants to file submissions by an Oct. 4 deadline.

Inspire Athens would feature two towers and include a luxury hotel, entertainment venues, a convention center and retail, dining and gambling spaces. MGE would partner with GEK Terna Group, a Greek conglomerate, in developing the project.

Bay State again eyeing a third casino

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is seeking input on whether it should consider the soliciting of casino proposals for the southeastern portion of the state.

A law enacted in 2011 authorized the commission to license one full-scale casino in each of three regions as well as one slots-only facility. Since then, resort casinos have been authorized and are operating in western Massachusetts (MGM Springfield) and Greater Boston (Encore Boston Harbor in Everett). A slots parlor is operating in Plainville.

“Should the Commission consider re-opening Region C (Bristol, Plymouth, Nantucket, Dukes and Barnstable counties)?” the commission asks in a request for public comment issued last week. It’s also asking whether it should consider the current performance of the existing casinos in deciding whether to re-open Region C and what role, if any, the potential for a tribal casino in the region should play.

Coincidentally, a court hearing is scheduled Wednesday in Boston in the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s appeal of a federal court decision that scuttled the tribe’s plan to develop a casino in Taunton in southeastern Massachusetts. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing oral arguments in the case.

The Mashpees hope the appellate court will overturn the 2016 ruling that found the U.S. Department of the Interior lacked the authority to take land into trust for the tribe — including land that was to be the site of a $1 billion tribal casino.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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