Allard said that Spain is already a huge tourist draw, with its sunshine and great beaches, and a casino complex would build on those assets. Spain is regularly one of the world's three most visited countries, along with the United States and France.

Critics argue Eurovegas will bring more criminality to Spain just as the economy goes into a nose-dive. And they warn that while Spain's young people are in dire need of jobs, positions such as hotel maids, waiters and croupiers are not a recipe for success.

Fears abound that allowing Adelson to build skyward would create a massive eyesore for either picturesque city that gets the casino. The notion of easing Spain's smoking ban so gamblers can light up while trying their luck also horrifies anti-tobacco campaigners.

One irony of the the grandiose development project is that Spain's onetime roaring economy fell apart with the collapse of a massive property bubble.

Adelson â¿¿ also known to many Americans for his generous contributions to Newt Gingrich's presidential run â¿¿ started looking at Spain as a possible site for a European gambling magnet in 2007, but years of negotiations with Socialists who ruled then went nowhere.

The Socialists lost power last year as voters vented frustration over the dismal economy. Now the more business-friendly Popular Party is in charge, and this, along with the downturn, means authorities are probably more amenable to welcoming Adelson.

Gambling is legal in Spain. But its casinos, and others in Europe, are associated with a more snooty clientele and ambiance, not the festive, anything-goes atmosphere of Vegas.

"There is no one place in Europe that is fun to go to and play the slots or play tables or have a good time with an adult couple or family," Adelson said in a meeting with investors in New York last September. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

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