Spain sees gamble in vision of 'Sin City'

By Jorge Sainz

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 27 2012 2:00 a.m. MDT

The hotels and casinos and all the rest would be built in three phases over the course of 10 years. Adelson says the project would create 260,000 jobs, 190,000 of them directly.

"It is a very ambitious project," said Jesus Sainz, president of PromoMadrid, a company which is owned by the Madrid regional government and has been negotiating with Adelson's people.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. surpassed Caesars Entertainment Corp. last year as the world's largest gaming corporation, posting profits of $1.27 billion in 2011. Sands operates properties in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore.

Gaming investors have sniffed out Spain before. A few years ago, Harrah's Entertainment Inc. — now known as Caesars — explored the idea of building a casino complex, albeit smaller than the one being considered now, in Ciudad Real, 200 kilometers (130 miles) south of Madrid. But nothing came of it.

What's changed things now is Spain's economic crisis.

The Popular Party seems open to the Eurovegas idea, although Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's office declined to comment for this story. Allard, of the business school, said that "if the project is viable, the government is going to collaborate and is going to play ball."

Allard said Spain lures lots of free-spending Russian, Chinese and Arab tourists and would be a perfect draw for travelers with a taste for blackjack or roulette.

Madrid was first in expressing interest years ago, with Barcelona jumping in more recently when the regional government changed hands from Socialist to center-right, pro-business Catalan nationalists. The Barcelona site is a wetlands area far from the city center but with a view of the Mediterranean.

In Madrid, one site is a deserted expanse near a shanty town and the other is next to a middle-class suburb called Alcorcon. People there are torn between the lure of jobs and the prospect of prostitutes flooding in.

"Ten years from now, my daughter will be 24 and I would not like her to live in a city with this kind of business," said Pilar Torres, a 44-year-old Alcorcon resident who is unemployed.

An anti-Eurovegas association held a rally in Madrid last week in which Adelson was mocked as an economic messiah, his pockets overflowing with dollars.

Juan Garcia, a spokesman for the association, said a gambling haven is no answer to Spain's crisis.

"I think a casino would be a waste of brain power and labor, and instead endorses an activity that has little do with research, innovation and development," Garcia said.

Oskar Garcia contributed to this report from Las Vegas.

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