After spending a couple weeks in Spain last year with my sister, I understood why it’s one of the most popular travel destinations for Europeans. Not only is it incredible close for them, but it also has great weather, good food, and a unique cultural bent that’s familiar to anyone who’s seen the Islamic-influenced architecture of Cordoba and Seville or the crazy twists and turns Gaudi was famous for. Now it appears I’ll no longer have to choose between Spain and Las Vegas.
Not that there was ever a serious debate. 😉
Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands is planning a huge casino development including as many as 12 casino resorts and over a quarter-million jobs. Given the current severe economic problems and unemployment, this sounds like great news. I’m actually surprised I only came across it today while reading The Economist at the gym since The Wall Street Journal had a similar story last month. From The Economist:
The numbers are certainly eye-popping. LVS would invest €6 billion in a first phase to build four hotel strips—eventually reaching 12—as well as casinos, shops, restaurants, golf courses and convention centres. LVS says the project could create 260,000 indirect and direct jobs, enough for nearly half the unemployed in Madrid. Spain is already the fourth-largest holiday destination in the world, but LVS reckons Euro Vegas would attract 11m new tourists on top of the 57m a year Spain already gets, increasing tourism spending by €15.5 billion over the next ten to 15 years.
Yes, 260,000 jobs is an awful lot. Unemployment among young adults there is at numbers I hope I never see here in the U.S., and I consider myself fortunate that not only am I a young adult with a job, but I also had the resources to go visit Spain the first place. But LVS is only going to build in one place: Madrid or Barcelona. These cities are now competing against each other to see who gets the prize.
My bias is toward Barcelona. I much preferred the beachside location and found the city far more energized and culturally diverse. Madrid was nice, yeah, but I’m not a nightclub person. It seemed beyond a couple museums there wasn’t a whole lot to do there besides party all night. Besides, can you imagine how awesome it would be to have a beachfront version of Las Vegas? You wouldn’t have to fake it at a place like Mandalay Bay.
Obviously casinos brings with them lots of concerns about their various social impacts such as increasing crime, public intoxication, prostitution, and gambling addictions. If I can provide my own uneducated opinions on this matter, I think bringing the casinos to a major city like Spain or Madrid is likely to have much better results than trying to bring the city to the casinos. Look at Las Vegas. It was built to serve the casino industry, and for the most part it now consists of the Strip and Fremont Street surrounded by a lot of dangerous-looking neighborhoods that frankly no one I know would venture into on foot and few by car. There are nicer suburbs out in the distance, but it’s just sprawl without much soul of its own.
I walked miles alone through Barcelona, even all the way out to my hotel at the end of the Avinguda Diagonal, and never worried about my safety. Crime may go up, but it will be buffered and is not going to be like Las Vegas. I believe with proper allocation of tax revenue from these casinos, most of the more serious issues can be stopped from growing too severe. In fact, the negative effects of unemployment are probably a bigger longterm threat to society.
But that’s my take. Vegas is fun once a year for a weekend and that’s it. I doubt that the plans of LVS will make me visit Spain any more often than I already plan to, but it would be nice to have an added attraction at a destination I already enjoy. What about you? Do any of my readers specifically choose or avoid certain destinations due to gambling opportunities?