Photo: Flickr / jscatty
Madrid and Barcelona are pitted against each other to attract a Vegas-style complex of six casinos, 12 hotels, shopping malls, conference centres, golf courses and theatres in an attempt to create jobs as the economy slips back into recession, the Guardian reports.Europa Vegas, the brainchild of American billionaire Sheldon Adelson (rated the 16th richest man in the world by Forbes), would create almost 200,000 jobs with a €17 billion ($22.6 billion) investment, according to the BBC.
The project would be half a big as the four-mile long Las Vegas strip of casinos.
It seems too good an opportunity to pass up for a country with a 23 per cent unemployment rate, even if Adelson is demanding tax breaks, changes to gambling and labour laws, and free land in the bargain, El Pais reports.
So while negotiations between the Spanish government and Adelson began months ago, and local officials are doing everything in their power to accommodate Adelson in the hopes that he will pick their city for his venture, opposition politicians, the church, and environmentalists are against the project.
“We don’t agree with this sort of economic model, which would create a tax haven that comes close to being a form of slavery,” socialist Madrid regional deputy José Quintana told the Guardian.
The church is worried that Europa Vegas will lead to an increase in gambling addiction and crime, while ecologists are worried that city officials will allow the complex to be built on environmentally protected land.
While regional Catalan President Artur Mas admits that Madrid is “in the lead” in the final stages of negotiations, Adelson said he would announce his choice before the end of the summer.
“I think we have the necessary agreement with the government to ensure success. We are finalising the last details,” Adelson told the BBC. The tycoon owns operations in Macau and Singapore, apart from the company Las Vegas Sands, which runs the Venetian, the Palazzo and the Sands Expo centre in Las Vegas.
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