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Madrid chosen for EuroVegas gambling resort

Associated Press Modified: September 10, 2012 at 8:00 am •  Published: September 10, 2012

MADRID (AP) — The decision by Las Vegas Sands to choose Madrid for a big "EuroVegas" casino project was welcomed by city officials, but potential obstacles include the company's decision to fund only 35 percent of the resort and to demand changes in local laws.

Ana Isabel Marino, Madrid's counselor for planning and environment, said the regional government received the news "with contained satisfaction, given that this is the first step."

Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson on Saturday announced the decision to choose Madrid over Barcelona for the multi-billion dollar gambling resort project on Friday night.

With Spain in recession and considering a bailout, raising 65 percent of the cost could be difficult. And there is no guarantee officials would agree to change Spanish laws to let gamblers smoke inside the casinos and the new buildings to soar above the skyline.

Analyst Ramon Zarate said, "I see capitalization by banks as being very complicated."

Zarate of the EMASI think-tank said banks were currently de-leveraging construction projects, so Adelson would need to "pool foreign venture capital funds, but it's complicated."

The Las Vegas Sands statement left some wiggle-room by saying resolution of "current economic challenges" in Europe is still a major consideration.

Adelson's plans had left Madrid and Barcelona — Spain's two largest cities — vying against each other for the casino resort. One official even warned that regional squabbling some 20 years ago had led to EuroDisney being located in France, not Spain.

But Barcelona was not to be undone by Vegas.

On Friday, the capital of the debt-ridden region of Catalonia unveiled its own plans for a 4.8-billion euro ($6 billion) "Barcelona World" resort situated beside the existing Port Aventura theme park near the Mediterranean Sea.

Barcelona's plan would include a casino, six large tourist complexes with 20,000 hotel rooms, shopping centers, a theater and offices, all on land with no planning modifications required. But financing for the resort has not been signed yet.

Regional sustainability counselor Lluis Recoder said that project has an advantage over Madrid's in that it would be built on land that already has street lighting and roads, and be located in one of Spain's major tourist regions.

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