Shel Adelson, the eighth richest man in the US, has found a solution to Spain's economic woes. The Las Vegas Sands casino mogul and infamous Republican donor has proposed to build "EuroVegas," a $35 billion megacity that will include 36,000 hotel rooms, 18,000 slot machines, six casinos, a stadium and three golf courses.
After months of jockeying by the local governments of Barcelona and Madrid, Adelson announced last month that the Madrid suburb of Alcorcon will be the home of the new Vegas-style strip. Spaniards remain strongly divided on the issue.
The project is promising 250,000 new jobs where Alcorcon, in particular, has 30 percent unemployment and a landscape that has been devastated by the housing collapse.
Carlos Ruiz, a volunteer for the group EuroVegas No, told NPR that he is worried that "Spain has fallen for a get-rich-quick scheme."
"[A plan] that we think doesn't create good jobs, stable jobs, that harms the environment, that harms the social relations, that ignores civil rights, that brings wealth only to the investors, not to the rest of society," he says.
Madrid was able to beat out Barcelona for the contract by offering numerous concessions including tax breaks, exemptions from social security payouts and local labor laws—to bring in foreign workers. Additionally, Las Vegas Sands is only offering to pay 35 percent for the construction; beggared local governments are supposed to come up with the remaining $22.75 billion. NPR reports that critics believe Adelson is taking advantage of the desperate economic situation as Madrid is considering taking out massive bank loans to finance its part of the deal.
"Citizens from the whole of Europe are lending money to Spanish banks because they are in a bad situation — hoping that someday these banks will start to give credit to small enterprises, to families, to people," Ruiz says. "But this money is going to go to Mr. Adelson, who is one of the richest men in the world. This is quite unfair."
The Guardian says that the project "has provoked outrage among an unlikely coalition of opponents, including local Catholic bishops and the indignado protest movement", who are associated with the ongoing austerity protests. "Local bishops have warned that the complex will bring gambling addiction, bankruptcies and suicides."
There is no question Spain is in need of both jobs and investment but this may simply be—as one prominent newspaper has christened it—a “half-rotten tuber to nourish a city,” .