Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sands jobs bonanza likely to prove a mirage

It makes quite an attractive and beguiling thought for all of us in Spain concerned about where economic growth and especially jobs are going to come from : gambling will come to the rescue!

Papers last week were full of talk about a proposed Euro Vegas supposedly to be opened in Barcelona or Madrid. The Las Vegas Sands Corporation which operates casinos in Nevada, Macau, Israel and Singapore is talking about a new mega-gambling development which it says could create 180,000 jobs.

The corporation's boss Sheldon Adelson said the project was being "actively pursued" with both contractors and architects. The scale of the proposal is enormous - 20,000 plus rooms and acres of shopping, exhibition and conference real estate. To put that into context there are only 70,000 hotel rooms in the whole of New York and these are to be built from scratch by one company.

Not surprisingly the corporation thinks it will need the "support" of the Spanish government (i.e. subsidy money) for such a big project. The foreign investment, jobs potential and tourist pulling power of such a venture is going to seem very attractive to the national government in Spain not to mention the cities involved who are likely to compete fiercely for the project.

All the press in Spain and indeed in the US and Europe, reported the news like the project was a certainty and that the jobs were practically in the bag. However these grand plans have to be taken with a pinch of salt particularly the promises of hundreds of thousands of jobs which just raise hopes which will more than likely be dashed.

The plans seem very vague and the figures plucked out of thin air by Adelson (who was speaking to the press in Singapore not even Spain) probably to see if the government or city authorities will bite and hand him billions in subsidies or free land. He was talking airily about a resort 10 times the size of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore which cost$ In this climate is he seriously talking about raising over 50 billion to spend on a green field project with no proven demand? I suspect it is pie in the sky - the same corporation was in discussion with Valencia two years ago about a big project but nothing came of it. A similar project has been touted (by a different group) in the province of Huesca promising :

"An investment of 17,000 million euros and include the construction of 32 casinos, 70 hotels, 6 major theme parks (and 12 small), museums, golf courses, shopping center and a racecourse" (Gran Scala Deadline)

But surprise, surprise nothing has been built yet and barely a million euros has been paid over for the land. Like casinos themselves it seems the gaming developers promise a lot but deliver mostly disappointment.

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