Adelson’s company Las Vegas Sands, the world’s biggest casino operator, is currently under investigation by the state of Nevada, by US federal authorities and by the Chinese government over allegations of money laundering, bribery and prostitution rackets, relating to both its American operations and its Macau venue. According to the Singapore newspaper Straits Times, documents filed in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit by a former employee show that “a man identified by the United States Senate as an organised crime figure” was allowed to move a US$100,000 gambling credit from the company’s Las Vegas casino to one of its Macau casinos in order to pay a bribe.
The Catalan Greens have expressed concern that Spanish authorities welcomed Adelson “like a head of state, while the most powerful countries in the world have placed him under suspicion.”
Possible sites for the casino city include the Alcorcon plateau near Madrid, home to thousands of unemployed immigrants, and the Llobregat Delta wetlands near Barcelona, which are Spain’s biggest source of sweet water.
The protest movement Stop EuroVegas is alarmed about the wetlands, but their wider concern is that politicians of all major parties are presenting the project as a means of salvation from the economic crisis, when it’s anything but. It is, they say in a statement, “a model of economic growth based on real-estate and financial speculation which is one of the main causes for Spain´s economic crisis”. Its main business, gambling, “will only benefit the multinational and not the local territory and businesses”.
A decision by Las Vegas Sands is expected in the next fortnight. Current speculation is that the “winner” of the casino project will be Madrid. In Barcelona the right-wing coalition government of Catalonia, which is effectively broke, is desperate to secure the development. But Madrid’s ultra-conservative regional president, Esperanza Aguirre, may have the edge – she’s a sympathiser of America’s Tea Party.
Whichever city gets it, EuroVegas will mean casino capitalism has come to Spain.