Viva Bezenye

A small town in northwest Hungary may soon be home to Europe’s largest gaming complex—if Australia’s richest man, James Packer, has anything to say about it.

“I am going to Bezenye for the weekend” is not a phrase commonly uttered by most Europeans. But that could change relatively soon. Bezenye, a tiny village in the northwest part of Hungary, may only have a population of 1,651, but if all goes as planned, it may soon be home to the largest gaming complex in Europe.

James Packer—the richest man in Australia and the son of deceased gaming magnate Kerry Packer—is leading an investor consortium that hopes to develop the project, tentatively titled “EuroVegas,” which includes a series of hotels, five casinos and a giant amusement arcade center. The first phase of the development is expected to cost up to $550 million (€420 million).

Packer, who also runs media firm Publishing and Broadcasting, has been busy expanding his family’s gambling empire since the death of his father. In addition to holdings in Australia and Macau, Packer has been trying to establish new casinos in Singapore and Russia. Last year, Packer teamed up with Eighth Wonder Capital in an unsuccessful bid to develop a second casino-resort in Singapore. Earlier this year, his company made its initial foray into the US market, purchasing a minority stake in Fontainebleau Resorts, which is developing a new casino-resort in Las Vegas.

Back in Bezenye, the local government seems to be very keen on the proposed complex, which came into being after a change in Hungarian law that allowed for large-scale casinos. Local politicians have already approved the 240-hectare site for development and have granted a gaming license to Austrian-based Asamer Group. Asamer is selling an 80 percent stake in the proposed project to Packer and his co-investors, which include the Guggenheim family and Eighth Wonder. The investment bank Credit Suisse is also trying to raise approximately €137.5 million from hedge fund managers and other financial institutions, according to a report in The Sunday Telegraph, in order to help finance the transaction. If all goes according to plan, Bezenye had better be ready. The project is expected to provide jobs for up to 1,500 people.

So the only question is: What will the other 151 people in Bezenye do?