US tycoon Sheldon Adelson has announced a $35 billion investment on massive Vegas-style casino complexes in Madrid and Barcelona. The project is still in the planning stage, but has drawn the ire of civil action groups who claim it will turn the cities in
"We are looking at twelve integrated resorts, 3,000 rooms each. A mini Las Vegas, about half the size of the Las Vegas strip in Spain for the European market," Adelson said at a press conference in Macau.
Adelson also said he hopes for some concessions from Madrid and Barcelona that would help to accommodate such an enormous project. He suggested loosening employment laws and fast-tracking planning regulations for the complex’s skyscrapers.
The gambling magnate’s company Las Vegas Sands has estimated that the complex will generate 300,000 jobs and bring 11 million new tourists to Spain, increasing holiday spending by €15 billion in the next decade.
Supporters of Adelson’s project claim it could be a way out of Spain’s crippling economic downturn, where unemployment has now passed 20%. Meanwhile, opponents argue it will raise crime and prostitution rates in both Madrid and Barcelona.
Tomás Gómez, secretary general of Madrid’s Socialist Party, voiced his disapproval of the plan to “sell” Madrid to the American tycoon, saying it would increase crime and would send prostitution rates “through the roof.”
He said the the Community of Madrid’s government had lied to the people of Madrid and that the Las Vegas-style complex would not generate as many jobs as claimed.
“A total of 180,000 people work in the hospitality industry in Madrid. How then is it plausible that 260,000 people are going to work in the twelve hotels they will build?” He said following a meeting with Madrid’s general assembly.
In contrast, Madrid’s conservative leader Esperanza Aguirre has championed the new scheme, claiming that over the next ten years it will allow “more than half of Madrid to find work.”
Spain’s economic crisis is forcing the newly-elected conservative government to make concessions in an effort to avoid the same fate as Greece. President Rajoy has taken a number of highly unpopular austerity measures, announcing on Tuesday that he would implement cuts of 10 million euros to Spanish health and education services.
But economic blogger Gonzalo Lira told RT that an austerity only approach to Spain will only create a “deflationary spiral.”
“The solution is a combination of austerity measures, but not so many that you’re cutting to the bone. You have to cut the fat, and that’s fine, but not cutting to the bone, because you have to have an industry to rebuild your economy.”
Spain’s rapidly growing prostitution industry has many politicians worried that the new casinos will exacerbate the problem. According to police figures there are currently an estimated 370,000 women involved in prostitution in Spain, 90 percent of whom are trafficked.
Prostitution is not illegal in Spain, but the economic downturn has seen thousands of women forced into work.
“Ninety percent of women who work as prostitutes are victims of sexual exploitation and end up in the hands of organized mafias who restrict their freedom. Their human rights are under threat,” said Rocio Nieto, President of the Association for the Rehabilitation of Prostituted Women.