Twelve hotel resorts, four casinos, nine theaters, four golf courses, huge convention centers and even museums, restaurants, luxury shops: an entertainment offer unique in Europe. It will need many years to build it, and we must wait for the twenties (those of the twenty-first century!) because it will be at its maximum speed. And before the ‘when’, there is a big ‘if’, about the announced project of the Las Vegas Sands to build a real Eurovegas in Spain.
It is sure that if everyone talks about it, and rather the echo resounded throughout Europe, it is because we are not talking about hot air. There is the real will of the American giant of casinos, headed by Sheldon Adelson, a nearly eighty years old man, to strongly invest in the Iberian Peninsula. In fact numerous inspections have already been made in the two locations that are contending the award of the project (Catalonia and the autonomous community of Madrid), and in this hot summer season the final inspections should be made, so the board can take its decision. The political formal or informal discussions with the authorities of the two Generalitat have been several (and confidential ones), especially as Adelson made very heavy conditions to invest in Spain. He calls for a reduction of the present tax regulations, of the one about the social legislation, and also of the very strict rules that forbid smoking in public places, everything obviously received a shower of criticism from city planners, environmentalists, trade unions, indignados, from the Society for Epidemiology, from the Church …. the list would continue, but in short we mention only the other Spanish operators, first of all Cirsa, who said that “with these favorable conditions, there would be some Spanish people ready to build a Eurovegas on their own.”
Moreover, for a Country with a shaky economy and with the very high (“dredful”, using the term used by Francesc Homs, spokesman of the Catalan government) unemployment rate, it is hard to say ‘no’ to a project that is worth 17 billion euros and that already in its first phase, which arrives until 2016, provides for an investment of 6 billion euros and the creation of 16 thousand jobs.
We must use the conditional mood, however, as it is a big project, almost a colossal and unfeasible one and that the ‘final choice’ between Catalonia and Madrid must have been done in May, but it has been postponed a lot of times.
This is not a useless wait, on the contrary it heralds business opportunities for the crowd of Spanish lawyers recruited by Adelson to submit to him an overview of the normative situation, and also for architects, geologists and local engineers is the same. The design itself is a very expensive work, and Las Vegas Sands is regardless of expense, nor his experts have reason to make a discount to one of the richest and most influential groups in the United States, that drew a check of 10 million dollars without turning a hair at the Republican Mitt Romney, the challenger of Barak Obama for the White House.
What is certain is that the existing casino operators (their 2011 was bad with a decrease of 14 percent in takings) are concerned about the impending of Eurovegas. Whether it was made in Barcelona or in Madrid, the closest casinos would probably destined to close, but also to the more geographically distant ones would stealed ambitions and the ability to become a center of attraction for international events. These problems are shared with accommodation, restoration and entertainment facilities that are springing up in the tourist Spain, which can not be considered a depressed area, and where therefore a competitor of the size of Las Vegas Sands would have an impact on the existing activities.
It is also true, however, that it is difficult to have double standards for Eurovegas and the other casinos, so while they are waiting for the end of the mega project, could benefit from a lighter regulative treatment than at present. And who knows if some land now occupied by some casinos can be expropriated at a very high price, to give place to Eurovegas, not to mention that among the several laborers that the project would need, reducing the current unemployment lists, we would surely have also some managerial jobs that could be drawn into the rich market of existing casinos.
A COMPARISON OF OPINIONS
Scordato (Gccb): “Casino Resort, it is difficult to export the American model in Europe”
“To express a personal opinion about the Eurovegas proposal – affirms the general manager of the Gran Casino Costa Brava in Lloret de Mar, a town in Catalonia – would be an act of clear arrogance and conceit …According to the kind of investors and the results obtained from the Las Vegas Sands Corp. during last times, I think it is more prudent to recognize that data, information, strategies, network capability of leaders of this project are beyond our reach. A project of 17 billion euros, in an unfavourable global economic situation like the present one, must necessarily find a justification outside our most common reference criteria…
So no judgments… but opinions, as how many opinions have been collected during these months. I think that the most strange aspect of the whole matter Eurovegas is the little, indeed very little “official” information we have at disposal. Practically there is no certainty about all the most important issues. If we consider that, for admission of the promoters, the gaming revenue will be only a minority part of the total revenue (conferences – F&B – Shopping – Shows – Golf – etc.), then the comparison with the various representations of the field is practically of no use.
But what we really mean with ‘American Casino Resort’? This model will work in Europe? The concept is now widely known in its offer, much less as a business model. The American model of a Casino Resort can be summarized in a simple concept – like for many other business Made in USA – of ‘Volume’ (ie: Quantity! Quantity! Quantity!)…I think that special concessions on lands, buildings, special taxations and more are fully negotiable (today this happens with other multinational companies now landing in Spain, so there is no reason to don’t treat or don’t equalize the importance of this project). But what is incredible is the huge amount of (low cost – one believes with a good reason) job out of the U.S. kind that, through the ‘compulsory’ tips self-regulates service, request, efficiency, availability, just can not be fitted. In the experience – in Las Vegas – of the arrival of a player to the casino, there is one person to receive the customer while another one opens the taxi door, two more persons will collect his luggages and another one will point him to the reception and the various hotel facilities …everything even before entering in the casino.
Obviously, everyone is involved in the tips distribution chain and receives a minimum wage per hour. Imagine now for our casinos what would represent a similar number of staff in front of a door to welcome customers, taking into account the job standard conditions and the undertaking cost: it is practically unreliazable.
Somebody says very little is missing to confirm (or not) the project and to the final announcement of the probable residence… Meanwhile, many operators also doped by the new online gold rush, remain in a state of hopeful mistrust of the Eurovegas project (in any case we don’t have the resources to take remedial actions) or, even more incredibly but comforted, that if it is Eurovegas… then all we would enjoy some advantages: first of all the removal of the no smoking for Spanish casinos… this is a poor consolation. Once again, we will continue to talk about smoking.”
Antoja (Facomare and Euromat): “80 percent of chance that it will be made”
“During last five years – Eduardo Antoja, president of Facomare Association and honorary President of Euromat says – we saw three projects for a big resort in Spain.The first one was the Caesar’s project that wanted build a Ciudad Real the “Reino de Don Quijote”. It was based on a huge residential development project that was killed because of the lack of financial resources, both from Spain and USA. The second project was the Aragon’s Gran Scala. A “smoking” project from the very first moment. The third one is the Sand’s Eurovegas: It is a real,solid project and my evaluation is that it has 80% of chance of being made. It’s a long term investment project. Adelson and his wife (“cherchez la femme!”) are committed on it, and they can obtain the required financial resources. The only reason why it won’t go ahead could be the Spanish/European monetary crisis”.
For Antoja, as a chance to get the project, “Barcelona is a little bit favoured. But in these projects, negotiations may have a fundamental importance. Who knows? However there is no doubt, everyone will get the project, including the existing operators, can benefit of it. With or without Sands, with the existing rules, not just taxes, but the entire gaming regulations, this industry can not survive. In this sense, we welcome the Sands project, which will trouble the rules. I support the project, provided that the same relaxed rules that Sands will enjoy are applied to the existing operators, who have invested, created jobs and that during last thirty years have been big taxpayers”.