ATHENS, May 4 (Reuters) - U.S. casino operator Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment said on Monday it remains fully committed to opening a luxury casino resort in Athens as part of an 8 billion euro ($8.74 billion) redevelopment project despite the impact of the coronavirus.
Mohegan and Greek partner GEK TERNA have advanced to the next phase of a long-delayed tender for the construction and 30-year operation of a casino resort on the site of the former Hellenikon airport.
Greece rejected a bid from U.S. group Hard Rock International, which has appealed the decision at a Greek court. The ruling, which is required before Greece names the final winner, is pending.
"Mohegan Gaming Entertainment is fully committed to turning Greece into a top destination for entertainment and business conferences in Europe," CEO Mario Kontomerkos said.
The company is ready to start construction work once it wins the tender "despite the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on the gaming sector", Kontomerkos added in a statement.
Greece has registered 2,626 cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, and 144 deaths, far fewer than in many other European countries.
But the nation, which only emerged in 2018 from a 10-year financial crisis that wiped out a quarter of its economic output, fears the pandemic will ravage this year's tourism revenue, a pillar of its economy.
Mohegan's plan, dubbed Inspire Athens, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists and generate more than 7,000 jobs.
$1 = 0.9148 euros Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by Jason Neely