Hard Rock International may never get its multibillion-dollar casino project in Spain off the ground. It’s still only a dream 10 years after it initially surfaced, and now faces complaints of being an environmental hazard.
A decade has passed since the Government of Catalonia in the north of Spain presented the Barcelona World concept. It was to be an entertainment and games mega-complex in the province of Tarragona that would attract new tourism to the area.
The project stalled for various reasons. Now, Catalonia’s Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda issued a report calling for changes in the urban master plan (UMP) for not meeting environmental requirements.
Not Green Enough
Specifically, the report states that there is no “environmental compensation” for the development and that it lacks “ecological connectivity.” These, the ministry points out, are requirements in order to ensure the project has the least impact on the environment.
Government sources told media outlet El Nacional that the report doesn’t necessarily mean the project can’t advance. Instead, it highlights changes that need to be addressed in order to ensure any development considers its environmental ramifications.
The previous government of Catalonia opposed the project, which is one of the reasons for its delay. A change in power has led to a more favorable stance toward the project, although opposition remains.
Aturem BCN World, the main opposition group to the complex, has presented a judicial appeal against the UMP. That complaint is now under review and could delay the project for a few more years. Aturem is seeking to stop any type of project related to gambling in the area. The organization has repeatedly introduced measures to challenge the legitimacy of Barcelona World, and has warned that it will continue to do so.
Aturem argues that Hard Rock hasn’t demonstrated that the development is eco-friendly in accordance with Catalonia’s environmental protection initiatives. As such, it is violating the terms of its licensing agreement, and therefore, the project cannot advance.
Road to Nowhere
The project, first presented in 2012, was promoted by the owner of the now-defunct company Veremonte, Enrique Bañuelos. It also had the support of Catalonia’s president at the time, Artur Mas. Changes in government brought new obstacles to overcome.
Initially, there was talk of a complex of six theme parks on 445 hectares (1,099 acres) within the scope of the Recreational and Tourist Center (CRT, for its Spanish acronym) near the cities of Vila-seca and Salou. This is the same location as the existing PortAventura World theme park.
Each park would have a casino and a hotel, and everything would involve an investment of around €4.8 billion (US$4.81 billion). The complex was projected to generate 20K direct jobs and 20K more indirect ones.
A few months later, the project began to deflate despite the interest of new investors. Although Catalonia agreed to Veremonte’s requirements, the company abandoned the investment at the end of that same year.
In 2017, everything seemed to indicate that Hard Rock was going to develop the venture together with Port Aventura and other businesses under the name of Hard Rock Entertainment World. The casino and leisure company projected an investment of around US$2 billion.
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