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This newspaper is a time machine, locked in around the time of two World Wars, one World Cup and a lost age when it was permissible to poke fun at Germans.

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East German Las Vegas

AN Israeli company says it will build a 500 million euro super-casino to rival the gaming houses of Las Vegas in depressed former East Germany.
 
In addition to the casino, the plan includes a commercial centre, restaurants, four 5-star hotels with 1,500 rooms, a conference centre, "wellness temples" and even a riverside marina built in and clustered around
a former brown coal-burning power station on the banks of the Elbe River that was once esteemed by the politburo of the German Democratic Republic as a model of effiiciency.
 
Sybil Germany is a subsidiary of the real estate conglomerate Sybil Group owned by billionaire Pinhas Sarfati, the founder and controlling shareholder of both companies. He said as the project grows it could be worth two billion euros to investors.
 
It handed over a million euro cheque this week to take on three lossmaking casinos in the state, together with their debts of close to 2.5 million euros.
 
But despite needing the boost it would bring to the people of Saxony Anhalt - where joblessness is at 13 percent - resistance to the super-casino plan is already growing. Local left-wing politicians oppose the project on the grounds that it is "fantasy capitalism."
 
"We do not need new castles in the air," said Social Democrat Jens Bullerjahn, the state's finance minister who, even though he sealed a deal to sell the loss-making casinos, is opposed to the idea of a Vegas resort in the heart of Germany.
 
"The government has sold out the people taking them for fools," said Left Party MP Gerald Gruenert. But despite lengthy and complex planning battles that loom, the company has signed a lease for the site and is talking of bond issues in the near future to pay for the redevelopment.
 
In Poland the Sybil Group already operates a fashion wholesale centre in Warsaw and has other real estate and gaming interests in three other eastern European countries.
 
'Vegas of the East!' announced the popular Bild newspaper in Germany - an image which the Sybilgroup is trying to move away from, claiming their vision is more of Monaco or Baden-Baden.
 
Quite how the group would import such a refined atmosphere into a region that has the lowest number of casino gamblers in Germany is uncertain. But it does promise around 3,000 new jobs after the government accepted its cheque and a committment to take on the debts of the state-owned gaming
parlours.
 
Apart from the socialist hackles of the local people being raised, there is also the small matter of a UNESCO World Heritage tag that has been earned by the Dessau Wörlitz park bordering the planned casino site. Its protectors fear hordes of people wanting to be married by Elvis impersonators may end
up despoiling the park's 142 square km of beauty.
 
"We have no objection to redevelopment but nothing must harm the unique status that we enjoy," said park spokesman Steffen Kaudelka. "UNESCO must be closely engaged with these plans. In principal we understand there must be new uses for the old power plant but a golf course and a helicopter landing
pad do not fit in with the centuries-old cultural landscape around here."
 
The gigantic Elbe Vockerode power plant was built in the 1930's and was shut down in 1994. Next to Magdeburg Caethedral, it is the biggest structure in the state.
 
Erich Honecker, the last premier of East Germany, visited the plant in the 80's and gave a speech hailing it as a "shining example of socialist engineering." Not only did it provide energy for over three million homes
and businesses, it also heated 64 hectarse of greenhouses built alongside it in 1974 to grow tomatoes and cucumbers in for locals.

German Herald





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