MADRID (AP) — A Euro Vegas in down-and-out Spain?
Depending on whom you ask, it could be heaven-sent or a deal with the devil.
Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s dream to build Europe’s first Las Vegas-style resort in Spain would certainly bring much needed relief to an economy lurching into another recession and struggling with sky-high unemployment.
But the millions that would rain down come with strings attached: Adelson wants Spanish laws bent so that gamblers can smoke inside the casinos and new zoning regulations allowing him to send buildings soaring above the skyline. And not everyone is thrilled about the idea of Spain hosting a European Sin City that could attract prostitution and mafia gangs — and add gambling addiction to the woes of already desperate Spaniards.
Still, Madrid and Barcelona are both vying to woo Adelson and the $22 billion he wants to invest to erect “Eurovegas” — an array of six casinos, 12 hotels featuring 36,000 rooms, a convention center, three golf courses, shopping centers, bars and restaurants.
The two sites being eyed in Madrid each cover an area equivalent to 1,000 football fields.
Adelson and his company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., will decide by the summer which city to build in if they reach a deal with Spanish authorities.
To say that Spain needs his money would be an understatement.
The country’s jobless rate is around 23 percent — nearly 50 percent among those under age 25 — and the economy is forecast to shrink by 1.7 percent this year. First-quarter GDP numbers are expected to show Spain has slipped into its second recession in three years.
“At a time like this, with so little to boost the economy, something like this is like manna falling from heaven,” said Gayle Allard, an economist who specializes in labor market issues at IE Business School in Madrid.