Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Chronicling Twenty Minutes of Google Research:

Here's a good one from La Vanguardia:

Zaragoza (EFE)-The government of Aragon and an international consortium today signed an official plan to develop the largest leisure and gaming complex in the world in the Los Monegros district of Huesca, with an investment of €17 billion entirely from private initiative.

Construction of the complex, to be called "Gran Scala," will begin in the third quarter of 2008. It will include 32 casinos, 70 hotels, 232 restaurants, some 500 shops, a horce racing track, a golf course, and several amusement parks and museums, according to the International Leisure Development (ILD) consortium, made up of a dozen companies from different countries.

Gran Scala, which will have the second-most casinos in the world, after only Las Vegas (United States), hopes to become the largest tourist destination in the Iberian Peninsula, with 25 million tourists in 2015, of whom the promoters calculate 80% will be foreign.

My first reaction: Geez, they're serious about this. I had laughingly noted it down a few weeks ago when it was first announced, doubting that it would ever happen. It sounds like a terrible idea, just terrible. Los Monegros is an ugly-ass desert in the middle of nowhere, hotter than hell in the summer and cold as yo' mama's cootchie in winter.

Now I am going to look up International Leisure Development, and I will bet that it is a consortium of oil shieks, the Russian mafia, arms traffickers, and sleazy property developers. "Sleazy property developer" is a tautology, I know, sort of like "crooked lawyer."

Here's their website. Note that it doesn't say who the companies that make up the consortium are. Also note that they hired a lousy translator, and that the French, as usual, seem to have something to do with it.

Here's what looks like a press release noting that the investors include British, Australian, French, and American investors. It adds that the comarca's economy depends on 80,000 acres of irrigated farmland and the pig-raising sector.

This dreadfully written press release informs us that ILD is currently working on a project called "Euro Vegas" in Hungary. Sounds like these guys are going around to everywhere that's nowhere in Europe and promising them Vegas-style gambling riches. They don't have any €17 billion invested in Euro Vegas, that's for sure.

Here's a rather more professional press release trying to ballyhoo the alleged development to British investors.

Ah, here we go, credible information. They're going to start off with a theme park called "Spyland," which sounds retarded to me, and I think the following paragraph illustrates which league these guys are really playing in:

The Reuters news service reported Thursday that Spyland has attracted $175 million in financing toward a $277 million goal for the first phase, of what will be a $438 million theme park. Construction could begin late next year, and the first phase could open in late 2010.

Seventeen billion euros, my ass. They've managed to borrow $175 million to build a second-division theme park. That's all they've got.

Here's some more news from Australia, this time claiming that it's a 28-billion-euro (confusion with Australian dollars?)project and adding that the promotors already struck out in Dubai and in France before flashing the big money before Aragon's eyes. Two of the members of the consortium are identified: Aristocrat Technologies and UFA Insurance.

Aristocrat is listed on the Australian stock market; their shares are worth eleven Australian dollars each. They look like a legitimate company, but they're not exactly a world heavy hitter. UFA Insurance appears to be a Lebanese outfit.

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