Will "Eurovegas" Save Spain, or Destroy it?
Spaniards are torn between the lure of jobs and the threat of crime and addiction in this "Spanish Sin City".
Spain's unemployment rate is hovering at a staggering 23%, so the government is resorting to an old American stand-by to try and cure its economic woes: casinos. The envisioned “Eurovegas” would be in one of two locations in Madrid and consist of six casinos, 12 hotels with 36,000 rooms, a convention center, three golf courses, shopping centers, bars and restaurants. The driving force behind the project is American casino mogul (and Newt Gingrich megabacker) Sheldon Adelson, who is looking to invest $22 billion in the lofty endeavor. Of course, he's got a few conditions, including easing the nation's smoking ban to allow gamblers to smoke inside, and bending zoning restrictions in order to build skyscrapers. Adelson says the project would create 260,000 jobs, but the idea has evoked fierce opposition in Spain. Many Spaniards fear that the "European Sin City," which would cover an area equivalent to 1,000 futbol fields, could create a sprawling hotbed of alcohol, drugs, gang violence and prostitution. Others simple believe the plan would be fiscally irresponsible. "I think a casino would be a waste of brain power and labor,” says Juan Garcia, a spokesman for an anti-Eurovegas association, “and instead endorse an activity that has little do with research, innovation and development.” Despite opposition, the plan may prevail; the Spanish government recently changed hands from Socialist to center-right, pro-business Catalan nationalists who are more likely to support the idea of boosting Spain's economy with a skyward business endeavor, even if it is a gamble.