EuroVegas complex plan spawns protest despite jobs boost

Alisdair Fotheringham
Monday 21 May 2012 09:44

It sounds almost too good to be true: at a time when one in four Spaniards are out of work, for the last few months US casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson has been weighing up whether to build a $21bn (£13.3bn) tourist-cum-gambling resort, being dubbed EuroVegas, outside Madrid or Barcelona. And the chosen city may feel it has hit the jackpot: EuroVegas, it is said, will create up to 250,000 jobs.

But with 150 protestors against the project gathered outside Alcorcó* town hall the week before a visit by Mr Adelson, it seems not everyone is convinced of the benefits.

"A project on this scale" – ranging from 12 hotel complexes, each with 3,000 rooms, to six casinos with 18,000 slot machines – "will have a huge ecological impact and Madrid's environment is already in very poor shape," says Rodrigo Fernández of the Plataforma-EuroVegas-No (PEVN) movement.

"The only justification for this project is employment. People are desperate for work and this project exploits their dramatic personal plight."

Mr Adelson says Spain's jobless total which "assures us the support of the government" is one reason for his company, Las Vegas Sands, opting for Spain. The other is weather.

In Mallorca last month, some 7,000 demonstrators protested against the proposed building of a hotel resort by the beach of Es Trenc, one of the few stretches of coast unspoilt by urban development. The construction would, according to El País, be the biggest hotel constructed in the Balearics since Franco's death in 1975.

"It's going to be horrible," says teacher Beatriz Mohedaño Lemauft, "ecologically, a real disaster for the area. Okay, so the hotel is not going to be on the beach itself, but it's right next to it and will have a huge impact."

The Mallorca hotel's backers say their €120m investment could create 300 jobs. But Natalia Martín, an activist with the Ecologistas en Accion movement who specialises in coastal laws, says quick-fix employment must not be the sole consideration for such projects.

"Whenever there is an environmental law which clashes with economic development, we believe the government wants to weaken that law," Ms Martí* argues. "Spain's current legislation on coastland has been in existence since 1988 and it allows companies to develop franchises on some stretches for 30 year maximums. But in the case of an oil refinery in the Basque Country they've just given them another 30 year-extension on what is actually public property."

As for EuroVegas, the environment is just one area where questions are being asked – and no answers given: all that is known is that Las Vegas Sands has "development needs", which it refuses to make public.

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