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Hard Rock Facing Allegations of Legal Abuse in Securing Casino License in Spain

Hard Rock Facing Allegations of Legal Abuse in Securing Casino License in Spain

For close to a decade, the integrated resort Hard Rock International wants to build in Barcelona, Spain, has been “coming soon.” A new fight over the casino project has emerged, however, that might turn soon into never.

The Hard Rock Cafe in Barcelona, Spain
The Hard Rock Cafe in Barcelona, Spain. Hard Rock International continues to face challenges as it attempts to secure permission for a massive integrated resort close to the city. (Image: Flickr)

The legal services of the Generalitat of Catalonia, the government of the Spanish community to which Barcelona belongs, is taking special interest in the project. It has announced that it will review the documentation of the Barcelona World project to guarantee that the content complies with the law.

The decision is the result of a report by local media outlet La Directa. It alleges that key contracts for the project included false information to receive the casino license, possibly even the forged signature of a government official.

Hard Rock Falls On Hard Times

The media outlet asserts that a contract that Hard Rock delivered in 2016 to the Department of Economy “incorporated false information,” but it passed the government filter, anyway. A document attached to the contract included “manipulated data,” despite bearing the signatures of Damià Calvet and Hard Rock’s Barcelona World representative James F. Allen.

Calvet is a former regional minister and, at the time Hard Rock submitted the contract, was director of the Catalan Land Institute. That entity, according to its website, is a “public company owned by the Government of Catalonia that works to develop land for economic and residential activities.”

The timing couldn’t be worse for Hard Rock. Spain is experiencing contentious elections at various political levels, a situation that always results in parties making deals to try to get a head.

The Popular Unity Candidacy party has taken the case to the Anti-Fraud Office of Catalonia (OAC, for its Spanish acronym) and has also registered a petition in the Parliament of Catalonia. It wants to immediately revoke the casino license and stop the project completely due to what it describes as a “scenario of possible irregularities.”

According to this party’s complaint, the original contract is clear on the management of the land for the complex. It doesn’t include a provision that allows the rights derived from the purchase option to be assigned to any third party without the consent of the bank that owns the land. This is something it alleges is linked to a desire to exempt Hard Rock from eventual responsibilities.

The agreement stipulates that, once the project meets all requirements, including environmental and safety protocols, the government will purchase the land from the bank. Hard Rock would then buy it from the government.

How It Got Here

Hard Rock has faced a lot of opposition to the project, although one particular group has given it the most trouble. Aturem Hard Rock has fought against Barcelona World since its concept was first uttered in government circles and has only gotten stronger since.

Aturem has repeatedly launched public protests to try to stop the project. Recently, it took to the water to emphasize how Barcelona World would cause already scarce water resources to disappear completely.

It has demanded the revocation of the project’s casino license and has found support in the Popular Unity Candidacy party. It has threatened to take legal action “in the face of a flagrant case of manipulation of a public tender.”

Aturem was able to reinforce its anti-Hard Rock stance because of the La Directa report. It has emphasized that there are differences between the conditional purchase option contract and the final contract that would cede control of the land to the company.

Calvet had approved both, in 2014 and 2016, respectively, when he was director of the Catalan Land Institute. As a result, Aturem has demanded the resignation of everyone who played a role in approving the contract. It also wants Calvet to be permanently banned from politics and public office.

Hard Rock officials haven’t weighed in on the new problem. However, if the media accusations are found to be true, Barcelona World’s future will be bleak.

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