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Question mark remains over Metropolis

THE FATE of the grand Metropolis project, a multi-functional complex planned for a 30-hectare plot near Bratislava, remains unclear. Last December Slovakia’s parliament changed the law that had given projects of this kind preferential tax treatment. The developer of Metropolis, Trigranit, said at the time that it needed time to analyse the new situation. The developer was expected to have benefited from the preferential legislation because a large casino, managed by the biggest casino operator in the world, was an integral part of the Metropolis complex.

THE FATE of the grand Metropolis project, a multi-functional complex planned for a 30-hectare plot near Bratislava, remains unclear. Last December Slovakia’s parliament changed the law that had given projects of this kind preferential tax treatment. The developer of Metropolis, Trigranit, said at the time that it needed time to analyse the new situation. The developer was expected to have benefited from the preferential legislation because a large casino, managed by the biggest casino operator in the world, was an integral part of the Metropolis complex.

Nevertheless, Slovakia’s parliament approved the amendment to the law on games of chance on December 8 and ended the special tax category that had been created for a ‘casino in a recreational complex’. This preferential tax treatment category had become part of the law on the initiative of the previous finance minister, Smer nominee Ján Počiatek. The current Finance Ministry then proposed last year that parliament delete the category, with the stated aim being to unify taxation treatment of all casinos, the SITA newswire wrote.

The programme statement adopted by the four governing coalition parties in 2010 stated that the law should revert back to the legal standards regulating gambling and moral hazards before 2009. Even though all MPs in the coalition supported the December revision to the gambling law deputies from the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party made it clear that they did not oppose construction of a casino complex like Metropolis, but only objected to deformation of the tax system to support such a project.

The multi-functional complex raised concern and opposition among a group of citizens as well as politicians, particularly those from the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH). They expressed fears that the casino would draw more criminality and prostitution into the country and also lead to a higher number of pathological gamblers. Last September opponents of the Metropolis submitted a petition to parliament containing the signatures of 125,640 people opposed to the development.

The petition committee stated that a mega-casino built outside Bratislava would be a huge security risk for Slovakia, noting that since this would be the largest casino in Europe they believed it would be very detrimental to the country’s moral environment and culture, SITA wrote. The petition called for the complete scrapping of the idea of building more casinos in Slovakia.

“For us it [the project] would be interesting only if everything except the casino remained,” a member of the petition committee, Michal Makovník, told the Pravda daily in response Trigranit’s proposal to reduce the size of the casino within Metropolis.

Gábor Zászlós, the chairman of Trigranit’s board of directors, announced last October that the company would reduce the casino’s size from the originally- planned 27,000 square metres to around 19,000 square metres, meaning that the gaming area would make up about 2 percent rather than 3 percent of the whole project. The total price tag was put at €1.5 billion.

Zászlós also said at that time that the fate of the project would depend on whether Slovakia’s parliament adopted the proposed change in the law on games of chance, adding that if the Finance Ministry’s proposal was adopted Trigranit would think about relocating the entire project to a location in Hungary.

The developer had stated that Metropolis would create as many as 20,000 jobs during its construction and provide around 9,000 jobs after its completion, as well as support and help develop what the company called a neglected tourism and services sector in Slovakia. Trigranit also estimated that the state would receive revenues of around €600 million per year from the project.

Trigranit had said that the project’s total construction would take between three and five years and that the complex’s aquapark, a facility that Bratislava lacks, as well as the planned congress centre would be finished within three years of the launch of construction.

The proposed site for the complex is a 30-hectare plot between Petržalka and Jarovce, south of Bratislava, at a junction of highways linking Hungary, the Czech Republic and Austria.

In addition to an American-style casino, the plans for Metropolis include a shopping centre, the aforementioned aquapark, a recreational centre and entertainment venues, as well as hotels, conference facilities, galleries, a multi-functional hall and other attractions.

When introducing the project in October 2009, Andrew Tottenham, a manager from Harrah’s Entertainment company, said that the Metropolis complex would increase the number of tourists visiting Slovakia from 6 million annually to 11 million and that the project would also attract Hungarians and Austrians.

The Bratislava City Council and municipal officials in Jarovce reportedly opposed construction of the project.

Pavel Škodler, the mayor of Bratislava’s Jarovce district, said the main objection of his municipal office is that the project is at odds with the municipality’s master plan in areas such as usage intensity within the district and the expected transport burden which the project, and especially the casino, would bring.

In October, prior to the municipal elections, Milan Ftáčnik, who was later elected mayor of Bratislava, voiced a negative opinion about the project.

“I do not need Metropolis,” he said, as quoted by the Hospodárske Noviny, adding that even though it would bring positive things, he did not like its size. He also said the developer’s offer to reduce the size of the casino was not enough to secure his support for the project.


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