Spain: The next Vegas?

March 27, 2012 11:58 am

Casino operators have used the recession to spread gambling opportunities across the United States. Now Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino operator who has donated millions to Newt Gingrich’s flagging presidential campaign, is using the financial crisis in Spain to tout a plan to build Vegas-style mega casinos.

Adelson wants to build Europe’s first Las Vegas-style resort in either Madrid or Barcelona. Casinos are legal in Spain, but they are small, low-key establishments that cater mainly to the wealthy. Adelson wants to build a huge casino resort that would eclipse either city’s skyline, allow smoking and cater to the masses

As in the U.S., Adelson is using the idea of jobs and tax revenue to sell the casino idea. Casino operators have pounced on the desperation of citizens and lawmakers to promote gambling as a means of economic development. No doubt casinos create jobs. But stripping more wealth from citizens via gambling is not economic development.

Just ask Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Samuelson: “[Gambling] involves simply sterile transfers of money or goods between individuals, creating no new money or goods. Although it creates output, gambling does nevertheless absorb time and resources. When pursued beyond the limits of recreation, where the main purpose after all is to “kill” time, gambling subtracts from the national income.”

Translation: individuals and governments can’t gamble their way to prosperity.