|Las Vegas Sands
billionaire plans to build up to 36,000 hotel rooms after Spanish capital beats
Barcelona to gambling resort
Half a dozen casinos and 12 huge hotels are expected to emerge from
farmland around Madrid over the coming decade after the gambling billionaire
Sheldon Adelson confirmed he will build a Las-Vegas-style casino strip on the
outskirts of the Spanish capital.
A deal to build Europe's biggest
gambling mecca has been struck between Adelson and the regional government of
Madrid, bringing with it the promise of tens of thousands of construction jobs.
The Spanish capital beat its arch-rival Barcelona in the battle to win
the controversial EuroVegas gambling project.
Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands chairman and chief
executive, said in a statement released in Las Vegas late on Friday: "The
regional government of Madrid has been a strong advocate for this potential
development, and we are appreciative of the energy they have brought to this
"Barcelona is an
outstanding tourism destination, and choosing Madrid over Barcelona was not an
However, he announced that Las Vegas Sands was only
willing to finance 35% of the multibillion-euro resort, and that it would
demand certain changes in local planning laws.
Adelson, rated America's
eighth richest person with a net worth of $24.9bn (£15.6bn) by Forbes
magazine, visited both Madrid and Barcelona in recent months as negotiations
over where to locate the gambling resort progressed.
The project is
expected to be half the size of the famous Las Vegas strip, the four-mile
stretch of megacasinos in Nevada. It is also expected to be split into a dozen
sectors, built one by one, eventually offering some 36,000 hotel beds, although
Adelson held back from confirming details of the project on Friday.
Adelson is hoping to attract visitors from around Europe and areas of
the former Soviet Union. Gambling would reportedly account for one-third of
While the deal may bring jobs to a country suffering 25%
unemployment, it has provoked outrage among an unlikely coalition of opponents,
including local Catholic bishops and the indignado protest movement.
Local bishops have warned that the complex will bring gambling
addiction, bankruptcies and suicides.
Indignado protesters have pointed
to reports of investigations by US authorities into allegations of corruption,
dealings with Chinese mafia members and failure to report potential
Neither Las Vegas Sands nor Adelson have been
formally accused of any of those things, and the company insists it helps
investigators with inquiries.
Adelson is one of the chief financial
backers of the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. His casino empire
stretches to Singapore and Macao, where sales are 13% of local GDP. It runs
several Las Vegas casinos, but 90% of profits come from Asia.
regional president, Esperanza Aguirre, from the liberal wing of the
centre-right People's party (PP), has promised to introduce whatever law
changes are needed.