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Sheldon Adelson's EuroVegas Threatened by Spanish Smoking Ban

Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson in Singapore in 2009, with Marina Bay Sands construction sites in the background.

Earlier this year, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who many in the poker industry know as the Las Vegas Sands chairman and chief executive opposed to online poker, announced plans to develop EuroVegas, a €17 billion ($22 billion) casino complex in Madrid, Spain that would feature six casinos, three golf courses, a convention center, and 36,000 hotels rooms. Now, those plans are in jeopardy due to a Spanish antismoking law.

According to a report in Bloomberg Businessweek, Adelson and company are seeking an exemption to the 2010 law that forbids smoking in public spaces. Without it, Europe’s biggest casino development project would likely cease to move forward in the Madrid suburb of Alcorcón and would instead find a new location.

The idea of a non-smoking casino is a major deterrent for the Las Vegas Sands, which is currently developing projects in Singapore and Macau. That’s due in no small part to a 2009 study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve that showed Illinois casinos dropped 20 percent after a similar smoking ban.

The proposed EuroVegas project is expected to create up to 261,000 jobs and attract as many as 4.7 million visitors annually, which would be a tremendous boost to Spain’s deteriorating economy. Nonetheless, it does not appear Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government plans to amend the law to accommodate the exemption request.

“At present the Government is not planning any proposal for the purpose of amending the law 42/2010,” an executive said in a written reply before adding that the Government, through the Ministry of Health, “has the promotion of citizens' health and the prevention of diseases caused by smoking as a priority.”

Even so, El Pais has reported that the Spanish government was drafting an amendment to the law that would allow regional governments to grant exemptions, which means the future of EuroVegas remains very much up in the air.

Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese has stated that the company does not wish to comment on the issue.

*Lead photo courtesy of Tim Chong / Files / Reuters.

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