September 19, 2013 / 5:23 PM / in 4 years

Madrid puts pressure on government to push ahead with mega casino

MADRID, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Madrid put pressure on Spain’s central government on Thursday to push ahead with a mega gambling resort outside the capital after delays caused by U.S. casino operator Las Vegas Sands seeking exemption from a national smoking ban as a condition of a deal.

Madrid desperately wants the Eurovegas resort - slated to include six casinos, 12 hotels and shops - to be built in the region to create employment in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe.

“We must do everything in our power to prevent a deal like Eurovegas slipping through our fingers,” Madrid President Ignacio Gonzalez told Onda Cero radio.

The deal has encountered delays because Sheldon Adelson, Chief Executive of Las Vegas Sands, wants smoking to be allowed in the casinos to prevent gamblers taking cigarette breaks outside which lowers takings for the operator.

“From what we understand from Mr. Adelson, there are still some outstanding commitments from the Spanish government to be resolved,” Gonzalez added, without elaborating.

Las Vegas Sands declined to comment on the matter on Thursday.

Gambling industry mogul Adelson told analysts in a presentation in London on Wednesday that the company was waiting for a smoking ban in Spain to be overturned before going ahead with the project.

The Spanish government is not keen to scrap the anti-smoking law which came into force in January 2011 and prevents smoking in all public places including bars, discos and workplaces.

Health Minister Ana Mato said on Wednesday that the government had to protect the health of citizens, although she added that it was also a government priority to create jobs.

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