CASINO CONTROVERSY

Minister wants foreign investment but no "pirate" license for EuroVegas

Tycoon Adelson wants exemptions from smoking, immigration, minors, prostitution and money laundering laws

Spain's central government said Wednesday it is prepared to relax some of the country's rules and regulations to allow the so-called EuroVegas casino resort to set up in Spain, but rejected the idea of Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre of creating a "fiscal and legislative island" to accommodate it.

US gambling king Sheldon Adelson's planned EuroVegas project will include 12 resorts with 36,000 rooms, six casinos, nine theaters and three golf courses, and involve an investment of up to 18.8 billion euros through to 2022. The tycoon claims the project will create 164,000 jobs directly and 97,000 indirectly.

However, in turn, the US businessman wants to be granted a form of legal limbo, with exemptions from upholding current laws on smoking, immigration, minors, prostitution, money laundering, town planning and other matters. He also wants a generous tax holiday and to receive the land for the project free. Madrid and Barcelona are competing to host the project if Adelson opts to build it in Spain. A decision is expected to be made this weekend.

Speaking in Congress, Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro said current tax, financial and labor laws are "of course in the future revisable" if they help to attract foreign investment and attract jobs.

"The intention of the government is to make Spain an attractive place for foreign investment," Montoro said. "That's all well and good, but no way would this government award licenses for privateering."

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