MADRID Feb 8 A sprawling gambling resort near
Spain's capital is due to create thousands of much-needed jobs
when it opens in 2017, but opponents question the economic
benefits and fear it could encourage crime.
Madrid government officials approved the mega-casino, dubbed
"Eurovegas" by Spanish media, on Friday after winning a battle
with Spain's second-biggest city Barcelona to draw industry
mogul Sheldon Adelson's company Las Vegas Sands.
The complex could transform the fortunes of Alcorcon, a
down-at-heel commuter town some 15 kilometres (9 miles) south of
the Spanish capital. Government officials say the 750-hectare
site could create as many as 250,000 jobs in a country where
over a quarter of the working-age population has no work.
Spanish protest groups fear any casino project on that
scale, however well run, could unwittingly attract illegal
activity and prostitution. They also point out the potential
damage to the environment.
Adelson's company is the target of a federal criminal
investigation and a civil lawsuit by the former chief of China
operations of Las Vegas Sands, who alleges improprieties at the
global casino enterprise that made Adelson, with about $22
billion, the world's 16th richest man.
Adelson has not been charged by federal investigators and
Las Vegas Sands has declined to comment to Reuters about the
The casino operator has recently hired three former FBI
agents to beef up its anti-money-laundering efforts, the Wall
Street Journal reported last month, and a spokesman for Sands
told the paper it would "continue to build and enhance the best
compliance processes in the business".
The U.S. inquiries have fuelled opposition to the Spanish
In August a small leftist party in Catalonia, where the
project could have been based, called for Adelson to appear
before the region's legislature to answer questions about the
investigations. But nothing came to pass.
The protest groups plan to gather in Madrid's central Puerta
del Sol later on Friday in an attempt to halt a project it
denounced as "synonymous with speculation, corruption, loss of
rights and environmental damage".
The mayor of Alcorcon, David Perez, said people opposed to
the project were showing little solidarity with Spain's
Four thousand jobless builders in Alcorcon would have work
by the end of 2013 if it went ahead, Perez said in an interview
on Spanish national television.
Eurovegas would include the tallest skyscrapers in Spain,
Newspaper ABC reported.
Las Vegas Sands operations chief Michael Leven said the
company would invest $3.6 billion to get the project off the
ground, raise financing in 2014, and pay for 35 percent of the
investment using its own funds.
The first phase would be completed by 2017.
"We have had assurances from many banks that we will have
that money available so it's not even a question," Leven said.
Based on employee numbers at the group's resort in
Singapore, around 80,000 people could be employed in the first
phase, which will feature 12,000 hotel rooms, shops and casinos.
"This project has enormous economic implications, enormous
employment opportunities and we can provide some excitement and
some positive attitude and investment for others as well," Leven
told reporters in Madrid.