Former Disney Top Suit Unveils Plans for Elysium City, ‘European Las Vegas’ Set in Remote Spanish Backwater

Posted on: December 4, 2018, 04:13h. 

Last updated on: December 7, 2018, 03:07h.

A former Disney executive plans to build a “European Las Vegas” in a remote and sparsely populated corner of Spain.

Elysium City
Elysium City promises to put Spain’s “La Siberia” on the map. Despite having no major cities, airports, or rail connections nearby, a former Disney executive believes he can make it work. (Image: Cora Global)

This week, John Cora of California-based Cora Global showcased his plans to Spanish media for “Elysium City,” a venture that promises to be country’s first “smart city,” with casinos, hotels, villas, a shopping mall, a marina, and a sports stadium.

If the proposal comes to fruition, it will be built near the town of Castilblanco, in the province of Badajoz, in Spain’s western Extramadura region — and it will be the first sustainable project in Europe to be built from scratch.

Cora believes he can do it all for just $3.5 billion.

Past Failures

This is the latest attempt to build a “Euro-Vegas” in Spain, a craze started by Sheldon Adelson back in 2012. Six years ago, the LVS chairman and CEO dreamed up a $30 billion (not a typo) complex outside Madrid — a towering integrated resort city with six casinos, 12 hotels, shops, parks, theme parks, and golf courses.

Adelson dropped the idea like a plate of scalding-hot tapas when the Spanish government failed to guarantee certain concessions, such as insurance against future changes in policy that might damage profitability, lower tax-rates on gambling, and exemption from anti-smoking laws.

Next, “Barcelona World” — which became BCN World when Barcelona city officials complained their city had absolutely nothing to do with it — promised to fill the Adelson-shaped void.

Despite six years of continual political opposition, this project remains alive — although it has been downscaled to a single integrated resort from the six originally conceived.

Hard Rock won the tenure to build a $2 billion facility and plans to forge ahead.

Meanwhile, a proposal by the Cordish Companies for a $2.4 billion integrated resort outside Madrid was recently upended by more political opposition and red tape.

La Siberia

The Cora proposal will require much investment in transport infrastructure. Famed for its pig-farming, the region is known as “La Siberia” — perhaps because there are no major cities in close proximity, nor airports, nor even rail connections.

There are tax breaks, though. Last year, the Extramadura government passed a law that provides reduced taxes and knockdown prices on gambling licensing fees for investments in leisure facilities of at least €1 billion that will generate 2,000 jobs and 3,000 hotel rooms.

Nevertheless, the region remains an odd choice for Europe’s Las Vegas, until you realize that Las Vegas was also once an odd choice for America’s Las Vegas.

As the failure or downsizing of aforementioned projects has shown, there will always be opposition to bold, brash Vegas-style ventures in Europe — especially those proposed by US developers, who will inevitably be accused of crimes ranging from cultural imperialism to simple poor taste.

But this is where Cora’s Disney background will stand him in good stead. As head of Disney’s theme park division in the 1980s, he was the driving force behind the conception and realization of Euro Disney, now Disneyland Paris.

And for a man who sold Mickey Mouse to the French, anything’s possible.