On Tuesday, Las Vegas Sands announced it’s postponing until September any decision on whether to proceed with its ambitious EuroVegas resort casino project in Spain. Sands had originally pegged an April or May date to announce the winner of the fierce competition between Barcelona and Madrid to host the project, but questions are now being raised as to whether the project will go forward at all. Of primary concern to Sands execs is the ongoing economic turmoil in Europe, in which Spain features prominently, having this month officially sought a bailout of around €100b to rescue its ailing banks.
At a press conference in Madrid, Sands president/COO Michael Leven said if “the euro disappears or there is no financing,” the project would be toast. Leven says his “personal belief is that the [Eurozone] crisis will end at some point,” but in the meantime, Leven can smell desperation in the air, and he likes it. “Our company expects to take advantage of an opportunity that we may not have again because of this situation.” This includes ‘requests’ for things like a 10-year moratorium on gambling taxes and limited exemptions from anti-money-laundering laws.
Sands has been schmoozing about 30 to 40 banks to find someone to put up two-thirds of the project’s estimated €17bn price tag. Spanish banks have been included on Sands’ call list, so German chancellor Angela Merkel may want to cut out the middleman and just write Sands honcho Sheldon Adelson’s name in the ‘payable to’ section of her country’s Spanish bailout check.
While Sands looks around for money, Madrid and Barcelona are frantically looking for ways to debase themselves in order to win Sands’ affections. This week, the president of Madrid’s regional government offered to overturn the ban on smoking in public places, even though it’s a federal prohibition beyond the authority of a regional president to revoke. When fully realized, the EuroVegas project is expected to encompass six casinos, 12 hotels, nine theaters and three golf courses – all of which will require tens of thousands of Spaniards to run. (Leven suggested as many as 250k Spaniards would find work if the project goes ahead.) In a county with an estimated 25% of its population out of work, we’ll be surprised if the federal government doesn’t offer to move Spain a foot north or south if Sands ‘requests’ it.