Posted March 15, 2014 by John Baintree in News

Will Euro Vegas ever happen?

Will Euro Vegas ever happen
Will Euro Vegas ever happen

Poor Spain, struggling with the financial downturn more than most nations because of its dependency on property development, must have placed so much store by the possibility of the first Vegas style gambling resort being built in Spain. Ironic or what?

In early 2013, 14th richest man in the world, Sheldon Adelson appeared to dash the hopes for Euro Vegas, a new resort proposed for a suburb of Madrid. The proposed resort with 12 hotels, six casinos, golf courses, cinemas shopping malls, bars and restaurants as well as a conference centre was set for development in the Madrid suburb of Alcorcon. It was widely welcomed by Spanish authorities and seen as a way of jumpstarting the stagnant Spanish economy.

Imagine then the doom and gloom when Adelson seemed to be saying “No way Jose” after the Spanish government rejected some of the demands being made of it by the developers. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria stated that “New conditions were put forward concerning taxes and legal protection … which could not be taken on board by the administrations involved”. By which she meant that the developers were demanding too many tax breaks.

Since the original announcement of the Madrid deal falling through Adelson, already a billionaire casino operator, has expressed an interest in similar opportunities in Rome, Milan, Athens and Paris but look more deeply into the reasons for Adelson pulling out of Madrid and you wonder if the projects will ever get off the ground. Not content with seeking assurances from the Spanish government that they would all but indemnify the development against the impact of potential future legislation that undermined its position, Adelson was seeking an exemption from Spain’s nation-wide smoking ban.

Tax breaks are one thing but it seems highly implausible for any European government to cede ground on the smoking issue, especially after the ground was so hard won in many European countries in the first place.

But perhaps we are also running the risk of losing sight of our own glorious dabbling with Euro Vegas.  As long ago as 2001, fresh after the Blair government relaxed the reins on gambling, and a Blackpool organisation, Leisure Parcs Ltd drew up plans for a series of casino resorts that would transform the fortunes of 30 million punters a year as well as the fortunes of Blackpool, a resort in terminal decline. By 2020 they were planning to create 25,000 jobs and be bringing in £2bn annual revenue.

Sadly they are still talking about it and government after government and Prime Minister after Prime Ministers seems to be unprepared to get behind any form of super casino bid, even without any exemptions from the smoking ban.