Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment (MGE) revealed this week that it expects to open its more than $1 billion integrated casino resort in Athens, Greece, sometime in 2026.
MGE, the gaming unit of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, beat out Hard Rock International last year to win the sole gaming rights in Athens. The casino resort is a small part of the Hellinikon Project, an €8 billion ($9.68 billion) redevelopment of the former Hellinikon International Airport.
Mohegan’s bid — known as INSPIRE Athens — will come with a casino, luxury hotel featuring 1,700 rooms, entertainment space, convention center, retail shopping, numerous restaurants, and “comprehensive mix of premium amenities.”
Speaking at the 6th Delphi Economic Forum, interim MGE CEO Ray Pineault said construction is forecasted to take 36 months to complete. Along with the approval and permitting process beforehand, Pineault says INSPIRE Athens is likely to welcome its first guests in 2026.
Pineault assumed the interim CEO role following Mario Kontomerkos’ surprising resignation in March.
Greece is only four years removed from its government debt crisis, which resulted in three bailouts from the International Monetary Fund, Eurogroup, and European Central Bank. Greece also successfully negotiated a 50 percent reduction of its debts with private bank lenders, which climbed to as high as €323 billion in 2015.
The Hellenic Republic’s economy has emerged to modest growth, posting gross domestic product (GDP) increases of 1.3 percent in 2017, 1.6 percent in 2018, and 1.9 percent in 2019. COVID-19, however, caused an 8.2 percent retraction in GDP last year.
Greece is betting heavily on the former Hellinikon airport reimagining. Greek firm LAMDA Development is supervising the overall project, which consists of approximately 2.5 square miles of land. The $9.68 billion investment is estimated to create more than 75,000 permanent jobs.
The revitalization of Hellinikon is the biggest project of its kind in Europe and the most ambitious development project ever undertaken in Greece. The project has been specifically designed to positively impact the local, regional and national economy by adding significant new investments, employment opportunities and uses in key areas such as tourism, culture, entrepreneurship, R&D and the environment,” LAMDA Development says.
Once finished, the Hellinikon Project is forecasted to increase Greece’s GDP by 2.4 percent, generate €14 billion in annual tax revenues, and attract more than one million tourists each year.
Greece is a largely tourism-dependent nation. Reuters reports that the Greek economy generates a fifth of its economic output, and employs one in five workers, from tourism.
“Hellinikon is a project that will change the region. It will attract many visitors on an annual basis and will bring a 10 percent increase in tourism,” Pineault added.
As for INSPIRE, Pineault says the casino resort will create 7,000 new jobs, and bring “many millions of tax revenue” to the country.
Hellinikon International was the main airport of Athens from 1938 until its closure in 2001. A portion of the grounds were used during Greece’s hosting of the 2004 Summer Olympics.
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