Parties divided over controversial Hard Rock casino-hotel in election campaign

Political battle over mega-complex caused budget plan to fail and for elections to be called early

Image of a Hard Rock sign at Punta Cana (courtesy of Hard Rock)
Image of a Hard Rock sign at Punta Cana (courtesy of Hard Rock) / ACN

ACN | @agenciaacn | Barcelona

April 30, 2024 10:51 AM

April 30, 2024 07:21 PM

More than a decade after the announcement of the Hard Rock casino-hotel complex project, the project remains at a standstill due to administrative procedures and divided opinions among political parties. 

The project has caused heated discussion in the Catalan parliament, with the Socialists, pro-independence Junts, far-right Vox, and liberal Ciudadanos supporting the project, while on the other side, pro-independence Esquerra Republicana, far-left CUP, and left-wing Comuns Sumar are all against it.  

En Comú Podem, which is how Comuns Sumars was called during the last term, voted against the 2024 budget claiming that it planned to advance the Hard Rock project.  

However, the Catalan government rejected such claim: "not a single euro will go to the Hard Rock project in this spending plan," Natàlia Mas, the Catalan economy minister, said.  

After the Comuns' no to the budget, Catalan president Pere Aragonès called for a snap election for May 12

Divided opinions 

"It is not the ERC model, we are committed to qualitative tourism, but we are also aware that we don't have the parliamentary majority," Raquel Sans, the main candidate for Esquerra Republicana in Tarragona, told the Catalan News Agency (ACN). 

"I think Hard Rock was the excuse for some to end the legislature, they have chosen their own benefits over those of the public," Sans added. 

The Socialists' leader in the region, Rosa Maria Ibarra, argued that administrative procedures are followed in the Hard Rock project, like "any other project," and that it is "environmentally rigorous.” 


She added that "procedures must be followed" and that the executives "must make decisions that are beneficial for the public." 

"There has been a voluntary delay in the project" caused by the government, which at the same time has ignored a "social consensus of mayors, chambers of commerce, and the social and economic industry of the territory," Mònica Sales of pro-independence Junts told ACN.  

Sales also said there are "obvious political reasons" that are preventing Hard Rock from being developed. 

Meanwhile, far-right Vox’s number on in Tarragona, Sergio Macián, said that "separatism has always put obstacles in the way of any economic investment in Catalonia." 

He also proposes that if Hard Rock receives a reduction on taxes, it should also apply to other “merchants in the province," and it must be guaranteed "that no taxes will be evaded." 

Matías Alonso of the liberal Ciudadanos party said they are starting to be "very pessimistic" about the future of the project because the processing of the urban plan "is in a drawer and seemingly will not come out. It is absolutely stuck because of a political decision by the government."

The far-left pro-independence CUP take a different view. "The Hard Rock project is not entirely legal and should be stopped" their official, Sergi Saladié, said.  

The party believes that technical reasons are halting the project. "If someone decided to go ahead with it, it would be an injustice as they would know it is not legal." 

The left-wing Comuns Sumar party also points to technical reasons, recalling that the executive "spent €150,000 on a report that said Hard rock is not environmentally sustainable," representative Yolanda López said. 


"It would be strange if, without making any changes, it were then given planning permission," López added. 

What is the Hard Rock project? 

More than ten years after it was first proposed, the leisure and gaming mega-complex to be built in Vila-seca and Salou, Tarragona, near the PortAventura amusement park, has yet to be developed. 

The original project, called Barcelona World, consisted of six theme parks covering 445 hectares. Each park included a casino and hotel and required an investment of around €4.8 billion.  

In 2014, however, the company behind the original project withdrew, and three years later Hard Rock took over and significantly scaled down the project.  

The current project includes a large casino, two hotels, a large swimming pool, a commercial area and a conference center with a total capacity for 15,000 people

The Hard Rock project has been stalled for several years, awaiting the approval of a new Urban Development Plan (PDU) since the Catalan High Court (TSJC) annulled the original one in 2020.  

Despite assurances in the 2023 budget agreement between the government and the Socialists that the process would be completed in the first semester, it is still on hold, awaiting additional reports from the Climate Action Department.