By HAROLD HECKLEMADRID (AP) â¿¿ A multibillion-dollar "EuroVegas" casino resort will be built in the outskirts of Madrid, hopefully bringing much-needed jobs and investment, officials from Spain and Las Vegas Sands casinos said Friday. Madrid's regional government president, Ignacio Gonzalez, said Eurovegas will occupy an area equivalent to 750 football fields in the suburb city of Alcorcon and the first phase of construction will begin late this year. Building the entire complex just south of Madrid is likely to take up to 18 years and it is estimated that some 260,000 jobs could be created. The mastermind behind the project is 79-year-old American tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his company Las Vegas Sands Corp. The figures linked to the plans presented at Madrid's town hall are dizzying, especially for a country with a swollen deficit and unemployment at a staggering 26 percent. Some â¿¬22 billion ($29.5 billion) will be invested to build 12 hotels, six casinos, a convention center, three golf courses, theaters, shopping malls, bars and restaurants. Las Vegas Sands operates casinos and entertainment complexes in several locations around the world, including Las Vegas, Macao (China) and Singapore. Michael Leven, Las Vegas Sands CEO, said the group will cover 35 percent of the equity investment and assured Madrid authorities that funding to complete the rest of the project would be found. It was not clear where the remaining 65 percent will come from. Leven said Spanish banks would be among the investors, but he did not reveal which. Despite the apparently large inward investment and the potential for massive job creation, EuroVegas has been met with rejection in many sectors of Spanish society. More than a dozen organizations, mainly linked to environmental causes or to the political left, last year created the "Eurovegas No" platform to oppose the project. The group reacted to Friday's announcement by saying Las Vegas Sands wanted to create an "island" for gambling and will count on specially granted tax breaks and the relaxation of laws regulating smoking bans.
Critics have said the project will promote unwanted activities such as prostitution and only create low level jobs such as card dealers, waiters and chamber maids. They say what the country, and especially its young people, need are higher skills jobs.___ Ciaran Giles contributed to this report.