US firm Las Vegas Sands confirms Madrid mega-casino project

MADRID (AFP) - US firm Las Vegas Sands said on Friday that it will go ahead with the construction of a vast casino project near Madrid which could create up to 200,000 jobs, the Madrid regional government said.

Six years after unveiling the contested project, the company run by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson will build the project on 750 hectares of land in Alcorcon, located about 15 kilometres southwest of the Spanish capital, the head of the regional government of Madrid, Ignacio Gonzalez, said.

"We expect to launch the first rock at the end of the year," he told a news conference.

The "Eurovegas" project calls for the construction of four casino complexes with 12 hotels providing 36,000 rooms, nine theatres, three golf courses, and convention centres over a period of 10-15 years.

The Madrid region fought hard to lure in the project at a time when Spain is grappling with a record unemployment rate of 26 per cent.

Last year, Las Vegas Sands, the world's biggest casino company by market value, chose Madrid over Barcelona for the project after months of talks with the two competing cities but the exact location where it would be built was unveiled only on Friday.

Alcorcon beat out two other locations near Madrid, Valdecarros and Paracuellos-Torrejon, in the race to host the project.

Opponents complain that public money will be used for a private project while Spaniards are suffering from cuts in public services.

A protest group, Eurovegas No, said it would demonstrate in Madrid later Friday.

Critics fear the casinos will spawn prostitution and crime, and a return to the excesses of Spain's property bubble, which imploded in 2008 triggering a double recession.

Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian and The Palazzo casinos in Las Vegas and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, as well as properties in Macao.

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