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Casino mogul Adelson pressures Spain to bend rules for EuroVegas

American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson's EuroVegas project could bring Spain much-needed investment, but the deal comes with demands for unappealing legal and financial exemptions.

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In this March 22 photo, a man is seen walking along the beach near to the field where a Las Vegas-style resort could be placed in Viladecans, near Barcelona, Spain. American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson wants to invest to erect 'EuroVegas,' an array of 12 hotels, six casinos, a concert hall, several theaters, and golf courses.

Emilio Morenatti/AP

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American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has a “vision” of bringing a massive Vegas-style casino complex to Spain and is tempting officials with billions in investment and tens of thousands of jobs that are sorely needed.

But Mr. Adelson's proposal comes with big demands, which reportedly include fiscal breaks and substantive reforms to Spanish laws, and have already prompted a backlash that could upend the project altogether. His proposal is triggering a broader debate in Spain about just how far the country should be willing to go to exit its worst recession in decades. Spain's final decision on the proposal isn't expected until this summer.

The proposed project would involve building 12 hotels, six casinos, a concert hall, several theaters, and golf courses on about three square miles over the next decade. Ron Reese, vice president of public relations for Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp., told officials and Spanish media during a tour last month that some 17 billion euros would be invested and around 260,000 jobs would be created.

Adelson’s company hasn’t made its case publicly and the aura of secrecy is raising even more suspicions. The company did not answer multiple requests for comment. 

Analysts, politicians, and economists in Spain have suggested that the economic benefits are not realistic. With several casinos in three different cities, Adelson's company only hired 36,000 people, they say. And besides, the rate of employees per hotel room – a common unit of measurement for Spain's tourism industry – for Adelson's proposal is much smaller than that of Spain's overall average.

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