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'EuroVegas' to rise in Madrid as Sheldon Adelson signs casino deal 12/09/2012
Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Las Vegas Sands billionaire plans to build up to 36,000 hotel rooms after Spanish capital beats Barcelona to gambling resort

Half a dozen casinos and 12 huge hotels are expected to emerge from farmland around Madrid over the coming decade after the gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson confirmed he will build a Las-Vegas-style casino strip on the outskirts of the Spanish capital.

A deal to build Europe's biggest gambling mecca has been struck between Adelson and the regional government of Madrid, bringing with it the promise of tens of thousands of construction jobs.

The Spanish capital beat its arch-rival Barcelona in the battle to win the controversial EuroVegas gambling project.

Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands chairman and chief executive, said in a statement released in Las Vegas late on Friday: "The regional government of Madrid has been a strong advocate for this potential development, and we are appreciative of the energy they have brought to this process.

"Barcelona is an outstanding tourism destination, and choosing Madrid over Barcelona was not an easy selection."

However, he announced that Las Vegas Sands was only willing to finance 35% of the multibillion-euro resort, and that it would demand certain changes in local planning laws.

Adelson, rated America's eighth richest person with a net worth of $24.9bn (£15.6bn) by Forbes magazine, visited both Madrid and Barcelona in recent months as negotiations over where to locate the gambling resort progressed.

The project is expected to be half the size of the famous Las Vegas strip, the four-mile stretch of megacasinos in Nevada. It is also expected to be split into a dozen sectors, built one by one, eventually offering some 36,000 hotel beds, although Adelson held back from confirming details of the project on Friday.

Adelson is hoping to attract visitors from around Europe and areas of the former Soviet Union. Gambling would reportedly account for one-third of income.

While the deal may bring jobs to a country suffering 25% unemployment, it has provoked outrage among an unlikely coalition of opponents, including local Catholic bishops and the indignado protest movement.

Local bishops have warned that the complex will bring gambling addiction, bankruptcies and suicides.

Indignado protesters have pointed to reports of investigations by US authorities into allegations of corruption, dealings with Chinese mafia members and failure to report potential money-launderers.

Neither Las Vegas Sands nor Adelson have been formally accused of any of those things, and the company insists it helps investigators with inquiries.

Adelson is one of the chief financial backers of the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. His casino empire stretches to Singapore and Macao, where sales are 13% of local GDP. It runs several Las Vegas casinos, but 90% of profits come from Asia.

Madrid's regional president, Esperanza Aguirre, from the liberal wing of the centre-right People's party (PP), has promised to introduce whatever law changes are needed.

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