Las Vegas Sands knocks the ball into the government’s court

Gaming empire calls on Spain to guarantee “legal framework” for Eurovegas casino complex

A computer-generated image of one of the hotels and gardens that Eurovegas will have.
A computer-generated image of one of the hotels and gardens that Eurovegas will have.

Las Vegas Sands has taken the bull by the horns, and is now urging the central government to respond to a viability plan submitted for Eurovegas, the casino, hotel and conference center complex the US gaming giant wants to build in Madrid.

Doubts over the project have driven a wedge between the national administration and the Popular Party authorities in Madrid, who believe the former is dragging its heels over proposed legal reforms demanded by Sheldon Adelson’s company as prerequisites. In a communiqué, Las Vegas Sands assured the government that it is still interested in the project and has the necessary funds to begin construction but added that it “requires guarantees that there will be an adequate legal framework, which will not change with time.”

Chief among Adelson’s requirements is that the national smoking ban be relaxed in the complex. Speaking on Wednesday in Congress, Health Minister Ana Mato said it would be “irresponsible and insensitive” to turn down the chance to host Eurovegas for economic reasons but reiterated that “health is the government’s priority, and after that all of the government’s policies are focused on economic growth and the creation of employment.”

“The Eurovegas project is based on gambling, prostitution and money laundering, making the argument that it will create jobs redundant,” argued Socialist deputy José Martínez Olmos amid calls from the opposition benches for Mato to resign. “We are dancing to the tune of a promoter who wants the government to change gambling and financial legislation for his own benefit.”

Chief among Adelson’s requirements is that the national smoking ban be relaxed in the complex

The project is expected to create 250,000 direct and indirect jobs, with some 10,000 to be generated in construction as soon as ground is broken. The municipality of Alcorcón has 15,000 registered unemployed, of whom 4,000 fit the profile for employment in the building of Eurovegas. The nearby municipality of Parla, where unemployment is also rife, has started a campaign for its residents to be top of the list for jobs at the complex.

Las Vegas Sands’ appeal to the government included a denial that it had turned its attention to Japan after the failure of Madrid to land the 2020 Olympic Games, which were awarded to Tokyo. “Our objective in Spain – with 12 integrated resorts – is to create the best convention installations in Europe, and potentially the world, as well as retail outlets. It is anticipated that our proposed development in Spain will be the biggest private sector real estate project ever carried out.”

The US firm also batted away doubts that were raised by the opposition in Madrid over its ability to finance the project. “There are no financial barriers preventing the company from starting and finishing the project in Madrid. Our finances are solid and the company’s capacity to ensure financing is exceptional in the industry,” the statement read. “We await with interest the government’s reaction to our viability study.”

If approved, the Madrid authorities will make use of a pre-prepared battery of tax breaks and other incentives to smooth Eurovegas’s passage. However, the central government’s response to Madrid’s request to change tobacco legislation may determine whether or not the entire deal goes up in smoke.

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