Will 'EuroVegas' Bring Prosperity to Madrid?

by Melissa García Lamarca



Alcorcón, a quiet suburb of Madrid, is poised to begin transforming into "EuroVegas" by the end of the year. The controversial project consists of hotels, conference space and entertainment around a replica of New York's Times Square. Last week, Las Vegas Sands Corp. — headed by Sheldon Adelson, the 14th richest person in the world — announced financing of $13.1 billion to begin construction, accompanied by flashy renderings of the planned development.





Madrid won the project over Barcelona in a heated competition last fall, and the site in Alcorcón was selected early this year. The development would include six casinos with 18,000 slot machines and 1,000 gambling tables, 12 hotels featuring a total of 36,000 rooms, a convention center, three golf courses, bars, restaurants and shopping centers on a 750-hectare site — all for a total of $35 billion.



The sky is literally the limit for EuroVegas. A "specially approved law" allegedly suspended height restrictions on buildings in the complex, one of many attempts by public officials to encourage Adelson to invest. Las Vegas Sands is to receive tax breaks on gambling revenue and property value as well as fee reductions on construction and infrastructure; there has also been talk of allowing smoking in some of the buildings despite a nationwide ban.





One of the major selling points is job creation, as Spain's unemployment rate hovers around 26 percent. Adelson claims that the project will generate over 250,000 jobs, which would reduce unemployment in Madrid by almost half. However, the actual quantity and quality of employment remain unverified. It is also unclear who would benefit, as public officials reportedly expressed openness to lifting restrictions on foreign workers to push down labor costs.


A protest banner reads "ANOTHER LIE. ANOTHER SCAM. NO EUROVEGAS." Source: El País

The protest group EuroVegas No questioned the development's potential benefits in a recent statement: "What guarantees do such supposed jobs have? Beyond these baseless claims, it is to be expected that EuroVegas is only beneficial for a privileged minority and will provoke irreversible environmental damage in the region." In light of popular frustration over neoliberal economic policy and corruption, the project will likely face continuing opposition from those who envision a different kind of prosperity for Greater Madrid.

Credits: Renderings are from EuroVegas Madrid.

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8 comments:

  1. what god awful architecture and extravagance

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  2. Thank you for writing about this. My very personal reaction to this project is a very visceral one of utter disgust, but I think it is crucial to seriously pursue the question of who the real beneficiaries are. Mega-building projects continue to justify their obscene extravagance with 'job creation' arguments. As you rightly point out, though, the quality of these jobs is questionable at best. If we want to come out of this economic crisis stronger we need to create more sustainable jobs, instead of supporting deskilling of an already corroded labour force.

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  3. Interesting how it's so explicitly an American copy-- Times Square and Vegas--why not build a modern Monte Carlo? Do Europeans really want American gambling or is it some sort of appeal to American thoughtless consumerism (to combat underconsumption)?

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  4. Thanks for your comments.

    Following the dominant logic, I (sadly) think that movement to "come out" of the current crisis will just involve more of the same. The elite who plan/design, approve and build such projects (politicians, technocrats and the private sector) envision and endorse such solutions because, at the end of the day, they are the main beneficiaries. A deeper question we need to as, in my opinion, has to do with our social, environmental and political relationships, and what kind of future we want. Since crisis is characteristic of capitalism, how can we configure other, more equitable social and environmental relationships?

    Melanie: I think the question is more what Sheldon Adelson wants, and how his Las Vegas Sands corporation plus private investors are materialising his vision, rather than what Spaniards or Europeans (or anyone else) wants. EuroDisney was highly criticised in its day but has emerged as largely successful.

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  5. Unfortunately not. This is like asking for more cocaine because we have abstinence syndrome. It is a predator model that use to play with 'job for everyone' to catch the public and the politicians but which in fact a destructive model. If something good has a crisis is that gives us the mandate of creating new ways of really managing our economy, exploding our skills and talents and becoming entrepreneurs. This yields to rooted economic stability, social cohesion and interaction, awareness of limits and resources and, moreover, empowerment and resilience. A crisis can yield to a more strong, fruitful and diverse society. Eurovegas model is not only beneficial for Mr. Sheldon but greatly hurtful for locals. It deposes them with all their skills, turning citizens in slaves and payers. I am Spanish, architect and resident in Madrid, so I will have a lot of work for a while but we should learn and change.

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  6. This project initially was to be built in Barcelona, where it met a lot of resistance from local actors and administrations.
    Then came the super liberal administration of Madrid to embrace such a polemic project. The unemployment factor was the blackmail argument in both cases...

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  7. Hello to everyone. I agree that initially, Eurovegas project sounds controversial, but we should be aware that we live in a capitalist society. That means that we know the rules of the game and despite of the fact that we might not like it, the purpose of the project is not crime, drugs, ... but business, tourism, attractions... Otherwise we can allways vote to the communist party and sacrifice interesting projects. That attitude will be a real "penny wise, pound folish".
    I'm optimistic and I'm sure it will bring to Madrid more econocmic dynamism.
    Joseph

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  8. As a Madrid citizen I hope this is never built. It is an expected construction orgy for our corrupt politicians, it would validate all the white elephants, the model of no education, no university, just corruption, construction bubbles ... Its the model that has failed. Same with the olympics. Our politicians are completely hysterical, their only long -and mid-term plans- for the whole of Spain were Olympic Games and Eurovegas.

    Its time to get serious and invest in sutainable models like technology, education, knowledge.

    The sun, paella and siesta Spain is a model promoted only by the political class because of the huge generation gap. Have you heard the Madrid major (who was not elected bur hand-pointed) speaking english in front of the COI?

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