Hard Rock Entertainment World in irons amid Catalan political deadlock

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While the unstable political situation in Catalonia is causing headaches for investors in the region, Hard Rock International remains committed to developing its €2bn integrated resort project.

The lack of political certainty in Catalonia has cast doubt on the prospects for Hard Rock International’s €2bn integrated resort project in Tarragona province.

The autonomous community’s ex-president Carles Puigdemont and several of his former ministers are currently under investigation regarding allegations of misuse of public funds, rebellion and sedition arising from last October’s illegal vote on independence from Spain.

Meanwhile, Catalan MPs in the Generalitat are struggling to form a new government after last December’s elections, which saw the pro-independence parties retain their parliamentary majority. If a new government is not in place by 22 May, the region will return to the polls in July.

Catalonia has been under direct rule by the Spanish government since the end of October, when the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, invoked article 155 of the country’s constitution to dissolve Puigdemont’s government and call elections.

“The existence of a viable government is on a sine die calendar at this moment,” explained Eduardo Morales Hermo, a gambling consultant with 45 years experience in the industry.

“The parties who won the last elections are not willing to form a government to govern under autonomous status and are just trying to gain time.

“It all depends on them changing their minds and temporarily postponing their long-term objectives in order to provide a reasonable government for a period and offer the people the services and governance that they need before the May deadline,” he continued.

“Otherwise there will be new elections which will not change anything and will just keep the wheel of fortune rolling but this will not allow the region to progress and creates a climate that does not favour investors.”

The Catalan independence push has unnerved investors and prompted hundreds of companies to move out of the region or review their investment plans since October, while the situation has left Hard Rock Entertainment World in political limbo.

“One of the major issues is that the political situation in Cataluña has not facilitated any real government decisions on this and other matters,” Morales Hermo added. “This is critical for anything to happen in the development of this project.”

Despite this, in January, Hard Rock presented the masterplan for the project, one of the Catalan government’s requirements for the development to proceed.

“Hard Rock is 100 percent committed to working with the Government according to the process outlined in the Tender to move the Hard Rock Entertainment World project forward in Tarragona,” Erin Owens, a media representative for the company, told International Casino Review.

The mayors of Salou and Vila-seca, where the complex would be located, have affirmed that despite the political situation in Catalonia, plans for the project are moving forward.

“In the meetings we’ve had, they have assured us that Hard Rock is still interested in working in our area,” explained Pere Granados, the mayor of Salou.

“There is time to move the project forward, and we hope that’s what will happen, because it would be very good for the territory. [But] it’s absolutely necessary that the situation stabilises.”

Granados contends that the development would be an opportunity to boast the region’s international profile and expand the existing tourism offering. He also proposes that it would help to deseasonalise the tourist industry, a goal that the Costa Daurada has been pursuing for a number years.

“The sooner we have a government in the Generalitat the better, as it will ensure this important project goes forward,” said Josep Poblet, the mayor of Vila-seca.

Hard Rock Entertainment World will include a casino hosting 1,200 slot machines and 100 table games, two hotels with a total of 1100 rooms, a 10,000sqm shopping centre with 75 retail outlets, and a concert space with the capacity for over 15,000 people.

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