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LAS VEGAS (AP) â¿¿ Casino giant Las Vegas Sands Corp. has chosen Madrid over Barcelona for a multi-billion dollar gambling resort project dubbed "EuroVegas."
The Spanish capital, the country's largest city, emerged as the company's best choice for the development, Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson said in a statement released late Friday in Las Vegas.
"The regional government of Madrid has been a strong advocate for this potential development, and we are appreciative of the energy they have brought to this process," Adelson said.
"Barcelona is an outstanding tourism destination, and choosing Madrid over Barcelona was not an easy selection," he said.
The decision was highly anticipated in Spain, where a high jobless rate and a shrinking economy make the prospect of thousands of construction and service jobs attractive to project supporters. But critics predict that gambling will attract criminals and say positions as hotel maids, waiters and blackjack dealers aren't a recipe for success for young people badly in need of jobs.
Adelson has said he wants to invest about $22 billion in the project. The company statement made it clear Las Vegas Sands will allocate no more than 35 percent of that amount.
Adelson has also said he wants Spanish laws changed to let gamblers smoke inside the casinos and new zoning regulations allowing him to send buildings soaring above the skyline.
Company officials called picking a location an important first step toward building a project that is expected to be built in phases over about 10 years. Plans have called for six casinos, 12 hotels featuring 36,000 rooms, a convention center, three golf courses, shopping centers, bars and restaurants.
But not everyone is thrilled about the idea of Spain hosting a European Sin City that could attract prostitution and mafia gangs â¿¿ and add gambling addiction to the woes of already desperate Spaniards.