UPDATE 2-Las Vegas Sands abandons Madrid mega-casino project

Fri Dec 13, 2013 9:15am EST

MADRID Dec 13 (Reuters) - U.S. casino operator Las Vegas Sands has abandoned plans to invest more than $30 billion in a gambling resort outside Madrid, dealing a major blow to the capital as Spain tries to revitalise its economy after a five-year slump.

The gaming group will continue aggressive pursuit of opportunities in Asia after dropping the project in Madrid, it said on Friday.

Spain's government said that it had rejected some of the demands put forward by Las Vegas Sands, including guarantees of compensation in the event of future legislative changes.

"New conditions were put forward concerning taxes and legal protection ... which could not be taken on board by the administrations involved," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said at a news conference after the weekly cabinet meeting.

"The government needs to preserve the general interests of all Spaniards," she added.

The project, known as Eurovegas, had been slated to include six casinos, 12 hotels and many shops, creating as many as 250,000 jobs and providing a welcome boost for a country in which one in four of the workforce is unemployed.

But it had run into various delays and obstacles in recent months.

Las Vegas Sands Chief Executive Sheldon Adelson had also been pushing for an exemption from a national smoking ban, putting Madrid's local politicians at odds with central government legislation as they tried to get the project going.

Spain's capital city had already suffered a blow this year when its bid to host the Olympic Games failed for the third time in a row.

The Olympics and the Eurovegas project had been hailed by politicians as motors of a recovery in Madrid, which has experienced rolling public sector strikes after deep spending cuts and has failed to capitalise on a rise in tourism to Spain this year.

Visitors to the Madrid region fell by about a fifth in August from a year earlier, while Catalonia, home to the more popular seaside city of Barcelona, recorded a 12 percent increase.