Barcelona gears up for huge new casino project

The race between Madrid and Barcelona for Sands’ 16bn EuroVegas project came to an end last month, as the Las Vegas-based operator agreed with government officials to select the nation’s capital. Barcelona now announces plans for a rival 4.8bn Euro casino complex that local authorities hope will attract 10 million visitors annually.
After months of secret negotiations, Spain’s government of Catalonia unveiled plans for its new entertainment and gaming destination dubbed ‘Barcelona World’. The announcement came just days after unofficial reports surfaced that Sheldon Adelson decided to take his EuroVegas project to Madrid.
The Barcelona World initiative calls for land next to the Port Adventura theme park in Tarragona to be transformed into six themed tourist complexes depicting the cultures of Europe, the US, China, Brazil, Russia and India. The costal region of Tarragona is located one hour south of Barcelona city centre and where a small hub of gaming vendor’s Spanish operations are based.
Largely funded by Spanish entrepreneur Enrique Bañuelos’ real estate firm Veremonte, the 450-hectre complex will be run by the regional government in collaboration with La Caixa bank, which owns the land. Although, “nothing has been signed, we just have an agreement between the parties to go ahead,” said a finance officer of the Catalan government.
Xavier Adserà, CEO of Veremonte, explained the project is primarily based on tourism to attract families and gaming is an extra. Even so, each complex will house a casino and the two new projects would bring a thriving gaming industry to Spain.
“We are looking for self-financing on an equity basis, which means attracting investors to each of the six complexes who will also take charge of construction in that sector,” stated a government official.
A total of six casino hotels housing 12,000 rooms, along with restaurants, convention centres and entertainment amenities is expected to open in late 2016, and create 20,000 jobs. Whereas EuroVegas will focus on gaming by creating a mini-Las Vegas strip, Barcelona World will become the largest leisure complex in Europe.
This has helped sway public opinion, with press and various citizens’ groups in Barcelona and Madrid in uproar over EuroVegas, due to its predictable mass of casinos and gaming facilities. And it comes when Spain’s heavily indebted northeast region of Catalonia is in need of a severe economic boost and job creation.
As it is to be located on land with legal status for immediate urban development, “the speed of execution of this project is greater than any other that could be on the table, not only in Catalonia but in the whole of Spain,” said Catalonia’s regional and sustainability minister Lluis Recoder. This means Veremonte can start building as soon as designs are final and permits approved.
Tourism is one of the only industries in Spain surviving the country’s disastrous financial situation. Unemployment rates are the highest in recent history with one in four people out of work, more than in any other European nation.
Catalonia is the most visited region in Spain, with close to 14 million tourists last year. Official data suggests that tourism currently accounts for 11 percent of the country’s GDP and provides employment for about 2 million people.
Barcelona World will help the Catalan government consolidate the region as a tourist destination and provide fierce competition to the EuroVegas project, scheduled to open in phases over the next 10 years. Served by Reus, Girona and Barcelona airports and with good access by road, rail and sea, the location is excellent, arguably better than EuroVegas in Madrid.