Spain: Are You For or Against EuroVegas?

Las Vegas in Europe… Do you like the sound of it? A giant complex that wouldn't pale in comparison with its American counterpart with its six casinos, three golf courses, nine theatres and twelve hotels, not to mention a multitude of restaurants and shops.

This is the project being put forward by multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands and 14th wealthiest person in the world according to Forbes magazine. After having conquered America (Nevada and Pennsylvania) as well as Asia (Macao and Singapore), the gambling magnate now contemplates taking over Europe, and more specifically Spain [fr].

The colossal project would create more than 200,000 jobs, attract between 15 and 18.8 billion euros worth of investments up until 2022, and generate more than 15 billion euros from tourism income over ten to fifteen years. It seems an apparent golden opportunity for a country bogged down in the Euro Crisis, as Spain is one of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) [fr], a derogatory term used to refer to these economically fragile states.

Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands, picture taken by on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands, picture taken by on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Two regions are in contention: Madrid and Catalonia. The presidents of both of these autonomous communities have put their full support behind this project and have claimed to be ready to do anything to win the EuroVegas ‘jackpot’.

In an interview with Spanish radio network Cope, Esperanza Aguirre,  [es] president of the Community of Madrid, has avowed her ‘duty’ to establish EuroVegas in Madrid:

“[…] son 200.000 puestos fijos cuando se acabe, sin contar todos los de la construcción de este complejo hotelero. Hay mucha gente a quien no le gusta esto. Porque a la gente que tiene mi edad, le parece un espanto lo de Las Vegas, del juego, de los casinos… le parece sórdido. Pero la gente joven […] todos han ido a Las Vegas, porque el Las Vegas de hoy no tiene nada que ver con el Las Vegas de hace 40 años. Las Vegas es un lugar donde el juego representa el 18%, el resto son congresos, los mejores cantantes, los mejores espectáculos, los mejores teatros, los mejores lugares de deportes. Entonces es como un parque temático para adultos.”

 “[…] it represents 200,000 long-term jobs once the project is over, not to mention all those [other jobs] created for the construction of this hotel complex. The project does not please many people. People my age consider Las Vegas, gambling, casinos… as scandalous. They find it all squalid. But young people […], they have all already been to Las Vegas, because today's Las Vegas has nothing in common with what it was 40 years ago. In Las Vegas, gambling only makes up for 18% [of the total revenue], the rest coming from hosting conferences, the best singers, the best shows, the best theatres, and the best sports venues. It is just like an adults theme park. “

As for Artur Mas [es], president of the Principality of Catalonia, he regards this project as a macro-investment which would generate quality tourism. In response to criticism by citizens, like Aguirre, he doesn't believe gambling to be a significant detail [es]:

Lo menos importante de todo esto son los casinos. Lo más importante es convertir el área de Barcelona y Catalunya en el primer centro turístico de largo de toda Europa, por encima de París y Londres”.

The least important aspect in all of that is casinos. What is important is to turn Barcelona and Catalonia into the first tourist attraction in Europe, in front of Paris and London.

However, such a favourable prospect requires making some concessions. The Madrid edition of newspaper El País has drawn up a list of all the compromises demanded [es] by the multibillionaire, classified into six categories: labour, investment, infrastructure, real estate and urbanisation, legal framework, and taxation.

These include: the complete renouncement of rights over all public property in the defined zone; exemption from social security contributions for two years; exemption from the Value Added Tax for ten years; the reform of workers’ legal status, notably that of foreign workers; the bearing of the costs by the Autonomous Community for the building of all public transport infrastructure to the complex; authorised access to the casinos for minors and banned gamblers, etc.

Singapore's casino, picture taken by Nathaniel Hayag, Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Singapore's casino, picture taken by Nathaniel Hayag, Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

While the mayor of Madrid seems willing to accept these conditions, the mayor of El Prat de Llobregat (a town in the suburbs of Barcelona where the complex might be established), Lluís Tejedor, is adamantly hostile to the project [es]:

On the Internet, despite a lot of debate in view of future job prospects, the majority of netizens are against EuroVegas. Here is a selection of Twitter comments published under the hashtag #eurovegas:

@jbasagoiti: #Eurovegas es el nuevo “maná” que va a resolver los problemas de Madrid o Barcelona. Yo creo que no es verdad.

@jbasagoiti: #Eurovegas is our new salvation which will solve all of Madrid or Barcelona's issues. I don't believe this is true.

@Brigi34: El interés en #Eurovegas es por sus beneficios en economía y empleo:… vía @AddThis

@Brigi34: The biggest asset of #Eurovegas lies in its beneficial effects on the economy and the employment rate.

@exp_catalunya: Un exdirectivo de Disney avisa a España sobre el tipo de ocio que supone… vía @expansioncom

@exp_catalunya: One of Disney's former CEOs warns Spain against the sort of activities promoted by… via @expansioncom

Internet users comment on an article from daily newspaper El País [es]:

yosisoytonto: No escarmentamos ¿Eh?. Lo triste es que piense que este país es como una puta hambrienta. Lo indignante ,que la marquesita se comporte como tal. Este Mr. Forbes quiere un paraíso fiscal para seguir robando con su negocio del juego (estafa confundida con la suerte). Se pide un modelo productivo racional, tecnológico, avanzado y se trae a la mafia Yankee del juego . Sr. Marquesa, no todo vale por la pasta . Cierre usted las piernas ,que es muy desagradable verla de esta guisa a su edad.

yosisoytonto: We'll never learn, will we? What's sad is that he thinks of this country as a starving whore. What's revolting is that the little ‘Marquise’ ( editor's note: Mrs Aguirre nickname) behaves as such. This Mister Forbes yearns for a tax haven in order to keep on stealing thanks to his gambling business (a swindle mistaken for a game of chance). He asks for a rational, technological and elaborate production model and offers in counterpart all of the Yankee gambling mafia. Madame the Marquise, money isn't everything. Close your legs, it's disturbing to see you in such a posture at your age.

asdf111: A mí lo que me parece una vergüenza es que El País intente echar a perder un proyecto que todavía está en fase de negociación. Ojala se construya algún día algo como lo que aparece en esa foto aquí en Madrid. Muchas de las reformas que pide son lógicas y, dado como estamos en estos momentos, necesarias. Tampoco veo por qué criticar ciertas exenciones durante los primeros años (como se hace con cualquier negocio).

asdf111: In my opinion, it is shameful that El País attempts to undermine a project that is still being negotiated. Hopefully, a project like the one in this picture will be carried out in Madrid one day. Most of the required reforms are logical and, given the current context, even necessary. I do not understand either the criticism of a few tax exemptions for the first few years (as it is common practice in business).

An online platform to voice arguments against EuroVegas called ‘EuroVegas No‘ [es] has recently been created and a press conference was organised last Wednesday, 14 March, during which different organisations expressed their opinions. One of the opposition's strongest argument was that EuroVegas will generate a tax haven.

The negotiations conducted between Adelson and the Spanish government should be closed by this coming summer. In the meantime, the debate surrounding the construction of EuroVegas remains highly visible in the media, while celebrities are beginning to take part in it, such as Roberto Saviano [es], the Italian author of a book on the Italian mafia, Gomorra, who wrote on Twitter:

@robertosaviano: Si aprueban el Eurovegas (Las Vegas de la UE), Cataluña se convertiría oficialmente en el centro de reciclaje mafioso de Occidente.

@robertosaviano: If they approve of EuroVegas (the European equivalent of Las Vegas), Catalonia will officially become the mafia's recycling centre in the West.


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