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Spain – Referendum not needed for BCN World

By - 23 May 2016

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has ruled out a plebiscite over the future of the leisure and entertainment macrocomplex BCN World in Vila-seca and Salou.

Puigdemont said that the local referendum would “not be necessary” after “a lot of work” had been carried out “to reach a consensus amongst all parties ”on the project’s future.

The project was placed on ‘stand-by’ in February due to growing political differences over the nature of project while the final urban planning had yet to be approved. However after government assurances that only six per cent of the proposed site would be used for gaming, and that BCN World would be first and foremost a tourist destination consensus has been reached with the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (The Popular Unity Candidates ) a left, pro-Catalan independence political party and members of Esquerra Republicana (The Republican Left of Catalonia). Puigdemont confirmed in Parliament that the plebiscite would no longer be necessary.

Despite the fact that the licensing process has been fraught with delays, difficulties and uncertainties both Melco and Hard Rock are competing for the new licence with Hard Rock confirming that it would be willing to invest €2.5bn in the project. The process has been made more complex still by the fact that both companies under the “Melco-Hard Rock Resort Cyprus Consortium” name are bidding together for the first integrated casino licence resort in Cyprus leading to fears that Spain could well lose out.

In May 2014 the Catalan Parliament passed the law that would allow up to six casino licenses in the area of the Recreational and Tourism Centre in Vila-seca and Salou, south of Barcelona. The regional government then set about the process of approving the BCN World Master Plan in order to define the zoning, and the public tender for the licenses.

One of the largest obstacles has been the high tax rate. Taxation on casinos is generally very high in Spain, and in Catalonia stood at about 55 percent of gross gaming revenue. Under new rules passed in the same year, the Catalan Parliament ruled that casinos in Catalonia would pay 10 per cent on their revenues from gambling once the casinos are up and running.

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