MADRID- US casino operator Las Vegas Sands said Friday it has dropped plans to invest over $30 billion in a mega-resort scheme that promised 260,000 direct and indirect jobs for Spain, where one in four people are unemployed.
The company, owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, said it would “continue aggressive pursuit of opportunities in Asia” where it already operates properties in Singapore and Macao.
In a statement, Adelson said the company “did not see a path in which the criteria needed to move forward with this large-scale development can be reached. As a result we will no longer be pursuing this opportunity.”
“Developing integrated resorts in Europe has been a vision of mine for years, but there is a time and place for everything,” he added.
“Right now our focus is on encouraging Asian countries, like Japan and Korea, to dramatically enhance their tourism offering through the development of integrated resorts there,” he added.
Las Vegas Sands, the world’s biggest casino company by market value, said in February it had chosen Alcorcon, a suburb of Madrid, as the site for what would have been Europe’s largest resort.
It chose Madrid over Barcelona for the project after months of talks with the two competing cities.
The “Eurovegas” project called 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 project was welcomed by Spain’s centre-right government in a country grappling with a jobless rate of 26 percent.
But opponents, which included the Roman Catholic Church and members of Spain’s “indignant” movement against social equality, complained that the casinos would spawn prostitution and crime.
They also argued it would mark a return to the excesses of Spain’s property bubble, which imploded in 2008 triggering a double-dip recession.
Adelson had been pressuring the government to exempt the project from the country’s anti-tobacco law, one of the strictest in Europe, but this had been fiercely opposed by anti-smoking campaigners.
The government was considering bending the tobacco law to allow punters to light up inside the Madrid mega-casino project.
Las Vegas Sands had said it would provide up to 35 percent of the funding itself for the first phase of the project, which would cost 6.8 billion euros ($9.5 billion).
Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian and The Palazzo casinos in Las Vegas, and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and Sands Cotai in Macao, a former Portuguese colony near Hong Kong.
The company generates more than 85 percent of its revenues in Singapore and Macao.