Madrid: The next Vegas?

MADRID -- Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson is in negotiation to build "EuroVegas" in Madrid.
Written by Jennifer Riggins, Contributor

MADRID--What happens in Madrid, stays in Madrid.  That is, if the contract is signed.

The Community of Madrid announced Wednesday that they are in "very advanced talks" to approve the building of a casino and resort complex in the north of Madrid. Negotiations are continuing with the Las Vegas Sands Corpation, owned by sixteenth richest person in the world Sheldon Adelson. He first stated back in February that he wanted to create a "mini-Vegas" in Europe and that he was concentrating his search on Spain.

Spanish Minister of Industry Miguel Sebastian dubbed the deal "not ripe yet." If the deal does go through, Sands will invest 16.9 billion euros over the next 13 years to build a complex featuring hotels, casinos, theaters, a golf course and dozens of restaurants. Sebastian said it would create about 50,000 jobs within the complex and another 160,000 jobs throughout the process. It could be a well-needed boost for Spain's core industry--construction.

The mini-Vegas would be be built in the suburb of Valdebebas near Madrid's Barajas Airport. Valdebebas is about eight kilometers (nearly five miles) from the business district in the north of Madrid. The Valdebebas Woodland Park is a neighborhood currently being constructed to house 40,000 people in about 12,500 apartments. It is also home to the Real Madrid Club de Fútbol training facilities.

The Spanish and gambling

Some may ask why Madrid, and not Paris, London, Berlin or another larger European city, was chosen for the next Vegas. Simply put, the Spanish are infamous gamblers. You cannot walk into a "cervecería" or "cafeteria"--local bar or coffee shop--without see the flashing lights of one or two slot machines. Every neighborhood has one or more small casino filled with the slots, horse racing screens and bingo halls. And there is no denying the lottery is a way of life in Spain.

SmartPlanet stopped by a local Tienda de Loterías to ask about the idea of a mini-Vegas being built in Madrid. Questions were asked as a steady stream of customers popped in and out of the store, which was decorated wall-to-wall with paintings of the owner and his family and pages and pages of lottery tickets. Patrons can buy lottery tickets and bet on sporting events at most lottery stores.

"Spain loves games," said Ramón Ruiz, shop owner for 17 years, in his native Spanish. He said that, while he only gambles a little himself, a mini-Vegas would be most profitable in Spain because the Spanish love all sorts of gambling. "Spain has many more casinos than Paris."

The Spanish lottery dates back to the early nineteenth century. Spain's largest Navidad lottery or "El Gordo"--the Fat One--has been going on since 1892. Tickets--which start at 20 euros apiece--go on sale in the summer, with the lottery drawn on December 22. People have been known to take a day off work and wait in line for hours in the rain, simply to buy tickets from a "lucky" store, from which winning tickets have been sold before.

This is not necessary since you can find people selling the tickets on just about every street corner. Lotteries are a big part of the government program ONCE, which supports disabled Spanish people, particularly the blind. As a part of its mission towards individual autonomy, ONCE lottery kiosks are all around busy areas of Spain, where the disabled are employed to sell tickets. Beyond employing thousands of citizens with disabilities, 70-percent of the lottery earnings goes to the winners, while 30-percent goes to the government.

Gambling is certainly an integral part of Spanish culture. If signed, Madrid's "EuroVegas" will become the heart of gambling in Europe.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards